Urgent Support

Dealing with Panic Attacks

The first time it happened was right before a presentation Andriya had to give. Just before she was about to begin, she suddenly started feeling like her heart was beating really fast along with a tightness in her chest. She was sweating and felt like she was losing control. This obviously scared her very much, as she was unable to understand what was happening. She had to excuse herself from the presentation and was helped by her classmate to calm herself. As this incident completely caught her off guard, Andriya began to often feel anxious, worrying that it could happen again.

Initiation

We all have heard about panic attacks. Maybe we’ve seen someone experience it or maybe we've had one ourselves. Many people who experience anxiety may also have experienced panic attacks. While some may have had one or two episodes, for others, it may have been more frequent and longer-lasting. Let us understand more about what they really are...

Symptoms

Panic attacks are episodes of intense anxiety, accompanied by various
physical reactions in the absence of any real danger.

What people who have experienced panic attacks say it looks/feels like:

  • Rapid heartbeats
  • Tightness in chest
  • Butterflies in stomach
  • Feeling breathless
  • Feeling Dizzy
  • Sweating
  • Intense Dread
  • 'On the edge'
  • Feeling like you're out of control
  • Feeling like you're going to faint
  • Thoughts like 'I'm going crazy/ I'm going to die'
  • Avoiding certain situations, places or people in fear of it happening again

(These signs are not for self-diagnosis/labeling, but to facilitate a better understanding of when to seek help)

Panic attacks can no doubt feel extremely real, unnerving, and uncomfortable. If the signs above sound familiar, know that you are not alone and that it is important that you seek help.

Coping Mechanisms

While you’re getting professional help, know that panic attacks are not permanent
and can be managed by learning a few skills.
Focus on your breathing

On a personal note - Iske subsections are different coping mechanisms in themselves, and are not exactly related to focus on breathing, if this can be looked into.

Given the nature of panic, it is likely that you are breathing fast and taking shallow breaths, which in turn is making you feel worse. Consciously change your breathing pattern by taking a couple of deep long breaths. This will help your body get more oxygen and can be of great help.

Other than deep breathing, there are various relaxation techniques that can be helpful at such times (like visualization and muscle relaxation). Figure what works best for you. For more refer to this article on relaxation techniques

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Practice Grounding

Grounding techniques focus on utilizing your physical senses and can help you feel more present and in control. One of the most widely used grounding techniques is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, try naming 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Here are other grounding techniques so you can choose what works best for you. For more refer to this article on relaxation techniques.

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Remind yourself that you're not in actual danger and this feeling will pass

Panic attacks can be extremely frightening but remember that you are not in any real physical danger. Anxiety usually peaks and then passes in a couple of minutes (generally 10-20 minutes).

Pay attention to your self-talk

The thoughts we have and the way we talk to ourselves can have an impact on how we feel. Notice the thoughts that go through your mind when you start experiencing anxiety and the way you think about these attacks. Check if these are realistic and address any unhelpful ones. Think about this:

Am I misinterpreting this situation?

Am I uncomfortable or is this actual danger?

What's a more realistic interpretation here?

If you're having an attack, you could also try reminding yourself that you've gone through this before and you're going to be okay, or repeat any positive statements that help you calm down. Your attacks It could also be beneficial to create reminders and stick them around your room.

While it may seem difficult, panic attacks can be effectively dealt with some practice. Your attacks may not stop overnight, but you may slowly start noticing changes in the intensity, duration or instances of it. Do not give up and continue practising your skills. Notice any small changes and don’t forget to reward yourself for the same.

Tips and Tricks

Panic attack log: You can use this log to make better sense of what you're experiencing and help cope.

Date

Level on a scale of 1 to 10

Starting Time:

Ending Time:

What you experienced:

Where were you?

What were you doing?

Who were you with?

What were the thoughts going through your mind?

                 

What are some possible triggers? / What are some coping strategies that help?

Seek Help

Last but not the least, remember, as stated previously in this article, that it is always best to seek help when you feel it is becoming overwhelming for you!

If your physical symptoms get too much to handle, approach the IIT Hospital. When the emotions get overwhelming or when you are simply confused about what is happening to you, talking to a counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre could give relief and provide guidance about what you can do.

You can reach out to a friend, wing-mate or mentor to help you implement your coping strategies.