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Attacking Panic

Welcome. This site is dedicated to providing up to date information and strategies to help you overcome and conquer anxiety, panic attacks, worry, and fear.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, "anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment."

In a 12-month period, it is estimated that approximately 11.2% of adults in the United States and up to 3.3% of Europeans experience panic attacks. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that 1 out of 75 people might experience panic disorder.

Although children can also experience panic attacks, the average age of onset is 22-23 years of age. 

Panic attacks are more common in women than men but the symptoms remain the same for both men and women.

Anxiety and panic attacks are very treatable with therapy and/or a combination of therapy and medication.

To stop panic attacks you will:

  1. First learn and understand what a panic attack is

  2. Change your fearful thinking

  3. Turn on your parasympathetic nervous system

  4. Learn how to give up control to get control

1.  Understand What a Panic Attack is and isn’t. 

In order to stop a panic attack, the first thing you need to do is to learn and understand what is happening when you are having a panic attack.

 

A panic attack is NOT life threatening.  

 

The symptoms that you experience during a panic attack are actually the body’s evolutionary response to keep us alive, also known as the fight, flight, or freeze response. 

 

The fight, flight, or freeze response is helpful if we encounter a wild animal ready to eat us.  The adrenaline that begins flowing through our bodies helps us escape and survive. 

 

When the animal is defeated or evaded, the symptoms disappear. 

 

For most people today, however, there is no wild animal trying to eat them.  It’s a false alarm.  Like a smoke alarm that goes off while cooking, the alarm is loud and unpleasant but the alarm itself is never dangerous, and the house will not burn down.

 

A panic attack happens when you believe that there is danger when no danger exists at all. 

2. Change Your Fearful Thinking

How to stop a panic attack or anxiety attack

Changing your fearful thinking and start responding with more accurate and helpful thoughts about what is happening.

 

Tell yourself that you know you are not in any danger because you know what a panic attack is.

 

  1. Challenge your inaccurate and unhelpful thoughts.  Ask yourself:

  2. What do I think is happening during a panic attack?

  3. “I feel light headed and I think I will faint.”

  4. What facts or experiences suggest that this thought is not true?

  5. “I learned that fainting only occurs when blood pressure is low and there is a lack of oxygen to the brain, and during a panic attack, blood pressure is actually high and there is more oxygen in the brain.  Also I have never fainted before.  So I will not faint.”

3. Turn on Your Parasympathetic Nervous System

​The parasympathetic nervous system is also called the “Rest and Digest” system.  Although this will not stop a panic attack fast or treat the main cause of a panic attack, it is very helpful at managing and minimizing the symptoms.  It produces a calm and relaxed feeling by;

  • Decreasing the heart rate

  • Dilating the blood vessels

  • Increasing salivation

  • Stimulating tear production

  • Stimulating the digestive system

  • Increasing a feeling of calm

  • Improves sexual arousal

 

You can turn on your parasympathetic nervous system with deep breathing exercises and by exposing yourself to cold temperatures.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise:

  1. Inhale through your nose slowly by expanding from your belly first then fill your upper lungs for a count of 5.

  2. Hold your breath for a count of 2.

  3. Exhale slowly and forcefully through pursed lips for a count of 10.

  4. Repeat this 5 to 10 times or do it for at least 1 minute.

 

Exposure to Cold

Research indicates that your sympathetic (fight or flight) system slows down and your parasympathetic system increases when your body adjusts to cold temperatures (Makinen et. al. 2008).  It appears that any kind of cold exposure works such as drinking cold water, running hands under cold water, and splashing cold water on your face.

4. Give up Control to Get Control Over Your Panic Attack

This is where you change your behavior and face your fear to stop a panic attack.

 

In order to free yourself from panic attacks, you need to know that you can defeat and stop them. 

 

For this to happen, you need to have the experience of actually lessening the symptoms of a panic attack, stopping it, or not having one at all. 

 

This means staying in a panic situation or approaching a feared situation, and being able to apply these strategies at the first sign of a panic attack. 

 

Decide to give up control and allow yourself to feel the anxiety without mentally or physically escaping or avoiding.  

Steps to giving up control:

  1. Say “Hello anxiety, welcome.  I am going to sit here with you.” 

  2. Use your helpful balanced thoughts, “I know what this is, it’s just anxiety and there really is no danger.  I can exercise some control by doing deep breathing.”

  3. Begin diaphragmatic breathing;

  4. Inhale through your nose slowly by expanding from your belly first then fill your upper lungs for a count of 5

  5. Hold your breath for a count of 2

  6. Exhale slowly and forcefully through pursed lips for a count of 10

  7. Repeat this 5 to 10 times or do it for at least 1 minute

  8. Continue to monitor your thinking and continue with deep breathing as the  anxiety diminishes. 

  9. Feel proud of yourself for staying with it, tolerating the discomfort, and actually reducing the symptoms. 

 

Realize that you just gained control by giving up control. 

Practice

Rehearse these skills when not anxious.

Practice and use these skills anytime you feel nervous or anxious.

Teach someone else how to use these skills.

For more powerful techniques on how to stop a panic attack please read:   "Attacking Panic:  The Power to Be Calm"

For More Information about Panic Attacks and Anxiety:

Check out The Fear Blog for more articles about how to stop panic attacks, cope with anxiety, and overcome fear.

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The Fear Blog is dedicated to providing information and strategies to help you overcome and conquer panic attacks, fear, and anxiety.

Please purchase my book “Attacking Panic:  The Power to Be Calm” for more in depth information on how to stop panic attacks quickly and how to treat the root cause (Amygdala/Sympathetic Nervous System). 

 

The book shows you how to go beyond just giving up control and allowing yourself to experience a panic attack.  

 

The book will show you a powerful counter intuitive strategy that will short-circuit your fight or flight system, stop a panic attack very quickly, and even prevent a panic attack from occurring. 

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