Shyloe Fayad is Okanagan based and the CEO & Founder of Happiness Habits and Radical Wondering Collective. In this article, she discusses the difference between an anxiety attack and panic attack, symptoms of a panic attack, and the 5 most important things that you need to know to deal with a panic attack. This is the 3rd article in a series of 3.
Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack
It is important to make a distinction between anxiety attacks and panic attacks.
- Anxiety attacks are very specific to a particular situation. There is an obvious and particular reason why you are experiencing those feelings. This happens before a particular event or in response to a particular situation. It might be because you have an important speech or report that you need to do, something is due, or maybe you're asking someone to marry you. There are a lot of reasons we can have anxiety attacks that almost immobilize us. Symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, inability to focus, trembling and shaking.
- Panic attacks, on the other hand, are different. A panic attack occurs for what seems to be no particular reason at all. You may just be walking down the street and your heart starts pounding fast, you're shaking, and trembling. You start to feel like you're losing control. You might even be afraid that you're going to die. It is this strong physiological reaction where several things occur all at once, and it seems to have absolutely no real cause. One thing that everyone should know is that panic attacks occur to almost everyone. Once or twice in their lifetime, most people will experience a panic attack. You don't need to be concerned as this is quite common.
However, those who frequently experience panic attacks can become afraid of their panic attacks. When this happens, this now becomes a panic disorder. And if you suspect that you have a panic disorder, it is extremely important that you see your doctor so they can help you manage it. A panic disorder is a sequence of panic attacks over and over again, and often there is no cause for them. It is advisable to see and talk to your doctor and assess if there's some medication that you need to take, and if there are some lifestyle changes that you need to make that will help you manage your panic attacks.
Symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Sensation of shortness of breath
- Feeling of choking
- Hot flushes
- Abdominal cramping
- Chest pain
It is often difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of panic attacks; however, there are definitely some contributing factors that can lead to panic disorders in individuals. They are:
1.) Caffeine and smoking – If you consume a lot of caffeine and if you are a smoker, you have a higher risk of panic attacks. If you are suffering from panic attacks and if you ever suffer from anxiety attacks on a regular basis, reducing or eliminating caffeine and smoking can help.
2.) Trauma – Childhood trauma or experiencing traumatic events can put you at risk for panic attacks. New studies show that we actually hold memories inside us. So, we can be affected in a more profound way by our experiences with our ancestors, particularly our parents. In terms of trauma, your body holds emotion. If you had a traumatic event in your childhood and you are now in your 40's, you may think you're already past the experience, but it is quite possible those hidden memories are causing your attacks. Emotions, if they are buried alive, never really die. They can resurface any time something triggers them.
5 Most Important Ways To Deal With Panic Attacks:
1.) Educate yourself – Knowledge is power. Do some personal research around your panic attacks. Find out more about the symptoms, causes, and risks and really gain a better understanding.
2.) Check your thinking – Look at the way you're thinking. People who are extremely sensitive to stress and who are more prone to negative emotions are at particular risk for panic attacks. Be aware of your thinking, because negative or obsessive thinking can escalate your panic attack.
3.) Avoid caffeine and smoking – For someone who is suffering from panic attacks, caffeine and smoking can be triggering factors.
4.) Develop relaxation techniques – Learn how to relax. Check your thinking, breath deeply, engage in positive self-talk and connect to yourself.
5.) Choose a healthy lifestyle – This may sound cliché to some, but here are 3 specific lifestyle changes that you can start implementing:
- Reach out to people – Talk about what's happening
- Exercise regularly – A simple walk around your neighborhood or dancing to a tune in your living room will do wonders. Any physical activity helps rid the body of adrenaline.
- Get enough sleep – Go to bed early at night, stop scrolling on your cell phone before bed and stop thinking about what you didn't get done in the day. Relax and be ready to call it a day.