Living with panic attacks or someone who has them can be a challenge. However, when you are armed with the right knowledge, panic attacks don't need to ruin your life or negatively affect the ones you love.
First and foremost, get help. Whether it's from a doctor, psychiatrist, support group, family or friends, you do not have to do this alone. When seeking help from a professional be open and honest about your symptoms and the thoughts that race through your mind during an attack. When approaching family or friends for support let them know this is a sensitive subject and that you would like their help.
Recognize symptoms and triggers. You need to identify what may be causing your panic attacks, not so you can avoid them, but so you can be better prepared to handle them. Sometimes just knowing it is a panic attack and not a medical emergency can help to ease your mind.
Keep track. It will be easier to identify the triggers and responses if you write them down. How were you feeling prior to the attack? Was there apprehension before you were even in the situation? How did you react? What were the symptoms? What ultimately happened? Did you get through it, or did you try to get away as soon as you could? Not only is keeping track a useful exercise for you, it's also helpful information for your treatment professional.
Avoid avoidance. It is natural to want to stay away from the things that could cause us harm. You wouldn't go swimming in a pool full of sharks, for example. But with panic attacks the danger is not real. It feels real and the body reacts in a way that is real, but if you start avoiding the places and situations that you think will bring about a panic attack it will only make things worse. On top of that there is the possibility of developing agoraphobia and becoming completely housebound.
Take small steps in the right direction. Focus on the moment, not so much your reaction to it. If you know someone who has panic attacks, then be understanding and help them to go into the frightening situations. Do not ridicule them, and be gentle if they start to have an attack. You can always try again at a different time. It is very important that they trust you completely.
Regain control. Learn how to recognize the symptoms of your panic attack. Identify the signs as a sort of false alarm and focus on getting your breathing under control. If you are with somebody having a panic attack, try to reassure them. If you happen to know their breathing exercises you can do them with the sufferer (this will help reduce embarrassment and get them back in control).
Panic disorder does not have to sentence you to a sheltered and limited life. Help is available from many different sources; you just have to seek it out. Understand that this is a very real problem that deserves to be taken seriously.
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