I had my first panic attack two weeks after my 30th birthday. I fell asleep on the couch and woke up suddenly and my heart was beating out of my chest. I also couldn’t breathe very well and my mind was racing. I had never experienced that feeling before and I didn’t know what was happening. Let’s just say, it scared the shit out of me. Unfortunately, I have had 3-4 attacks since, and my anxiety levels are definitely higher than they ever were. I am not sure if this is something that comes with age, but it seems a lot of my girlfriends have been experiencing a lot more anxiety as we have gotten older. I don’t seem to have a full on attack lately, but I do feel more often that I am on the edge of one and try my best to keep it from turning into a full-fledged panic attack.
There are studies being conducted about hormones and anxiety and their connection. It seems that when your hormones are not in balance it can affect and make you vulnerable to anxiety attacks. Especially if your estrogen or progesterone levels are low. For me this can make sense because I notice that depending on where I am in my monthly cycle, I can really get anxiety when I am flying on an airplane, other times it doesn’t bother me to fly.
Depression, mood swings, low libido and lack of energy can occur in response to hormonal imbalance. These symptoms are also indicative of hormonal imbalances due to menopause, thyroid disorders or early ovarian failure. Anxiety symptoms are also caused by hormonal therapy like birth control pills.
Here are some of the major symptoms of a anxiety or panic attack:
- Profuse sweating
- Dryness of mouth
- Inability to comprehend the situation
- Flashes that alternate between hot and cold
- Heart Racing
- Mind Racing
- Negative thoughts
If you are in the middle of an attack try to remember and recognize that you’re having a panic attack. You’re not really in any danger. You’re not losing your mind.
Here are some steps to take to control and end your panic attack:
1. Take deep breaths
2. Rub your temples in a circular motion
3. Drinking a glass of chilled water can actually help you get your nerves in order.
4. Force yourself to get your mind involved in a funny television show.
5. If you can’t sit for obvious reasons stand up and watch it and pace around or walk or jog in place until your mind eases.
6. Rational thinking – All kind of negative thoughts pass through your head when you experience a panic attack. These thoughts are unfounded. It can help to shout STOP!!! inside your head to stop your negative thoughts in their tracks.
7. Breathe into a paper bag. This trick really does work. The carbon dioxide helps to slow your breathing down and makes you feel calmer.
8. And my favorite tip, this trick helps me to prevent an attack if I feel one coming (especially helps me on the plane) and if I do have an attack, it ends it sooner. Do Math! Really. Try to get your mind onto something that makes you concentrate. I will start to write out our bills or do them in my head, or I will do multiplication tables in my head, 8×12= 96 and so on. It really helps because I am not focused on the attack but something that I really have to think about. Or, if you are not a fan of math, count backwards from 100 by 3s. Ex. 100, 97, 94, 91, 88, etc.
If your attacks start to be more often consider seeking help. Whatever the reason for your panic attacks, there’s no shame in getting help from a medical doctor or a psychotherapist. Often, it only takes a few therapy sessions to get relief from panic attacks. Or you can get prescribed some anti-anxiety medication to help.
Breathing is a really useful tool in your arsenal when coping with anxiety attacks. However, it is really diaphragmatic breathing that helps – shallow, rapid breaths taken from the chest will likely accelerate your system and make the episode worse. Deep, measured breaths from your tummy will help your heart to slow down and the rest of you follows. It’s worth practicing this regularly – it makes it easier to draw on when you do start to experience anxiety. This wee video shows how to breath properly http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmi6sNG9ttM&feature=related
My Thirty Spot says
Thanks for the tip. Breathing is really important when it comes to bringing your anxiety down.
As a professional and licensed therapist who runs panic treatment groups, distraction may help temporarily but actually reinforces the panic cycle in the long run. Check out info on panic on the National institute of Mental Health for great info on
I second the tip on watching a funny tv show, several years ago while going through a crisis with my son with autism, I experienced my first panic attacks which manifested as feeling like I couldn’t breathe and a rapid heart beat. At first I thought it was just because I’d been crying so hard that I couln’t breathe.
At any rate, watching old episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond was a godsend. Every night I watched it, it was the highpoint of my day. (Sad, huh?) No I didn’t Lol but it was a temporary distraction.
Hope yours are under control. I rarely get them anymore. Yay!
Betty Pringle says
I have terrible panic attacks when I am a passenger in a car. If the driver drives too fast, tail gates, changes lanes too often, doesn’t keep their eyes on the road and is easily distracted by adjusting the radio, eating and everything else I am a mess until we arrive at our destination. I’ve been to a therapist and tried all her suggestions and sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t. I miss out on a lot of fun trips with my daughters.
Priscilla Warner says
I just found your excellent post through Pinterest, and I’d be honored to send you a copy of my book, if you’d like, Erin. I suffered from panic attacks from the time I was fifteen, and although 6 million people suffer from them, I felt all alone. I recently wrote a memoir, Learning to Breathe – My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life, and learned how to meditate my way from panic to peace :-) I write about about a lot of techniques and treatments that I think you’d find helpful. You can check out the book on my website and let me know if you’d like a signed copy: http://priscillawarnerbooks.com I wish you peace…
Mevina Sandra says
I don’t know if I have this panic disorder or not, but yesterday when I was in cinema suddenly I feel sooo panic, I don’t have any reason of my panic, my heart beat so fast, and I feel like I’m going to explode.. but suddenly the panic is gone. I just wondering what’s going on with my self? This panic has happened once before.. but thanks for the tips ..