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.