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Panic Attacks

What is panic attack?

Panic attacks are a sudden feeling of intense anxiety, we might feel like something bad or dangerous is about to happen; we may first notice a sense of foreboding which builds and before we know it we feel like we are losing control. 

Physical symptoms:

Once the foreboding has got a hold we may begin to feel physical symptom for example:

  • Shaking

  • Disorientation

  • Light headed

  • Dizzy/faint

  • Tight chest/painful chest

  • Feeling weak

  • Tingling in hands or numbness



Panic attacks can feel frightening and dangerous.   During a panic attack some people can feel like they are about to have a heart attack or die in those moments, it is extremely rare someone would actually have a heart attack and die due to panicking.  This can be a real fear for many people experiencing panic.

Panic attacks are generally short lived lasting less than 10 minutes, some of the symptoms may go on a little longer.

This only adds to the fear and a vicious circle of fear, anxiety and panic is set up, if you’ve had one panic attack you may live in fear of having another and this might in itself bring an attack on!  They are rarely a sign of impending doom or something serious is happening.

Panic attacks are unpredictable and this adds to the worry of having another one.

Panic attacks are about our ‘feelings’ and our feelings can change in a heartbeat!

To end panic attacks once and for all it is best to turn into them and look them in the eye!  This takes the power away from the attack and back onto you and more importantly your control of the situation.  This stops the unpredictability and fear since you are taking back control!

Sounds scary to do in the face of a panic with practice it can offer you control in those moment of trying to face them!

What can help us to take back control?


It might help to think of a calm restful scene like an ocean or a meadow to block out those negative words that spin round our head telling us negative affirmations that doom and gloom is on the horizon. 












When we are going into a panic attack the first thing we may notice is our breathing starts to get quicker and shallower, that is we breath rapidly and this stops us getting in enough oxygen which adds to the feeling of danger and also knocks our thought process out of clarity and we find our self not being able to think, our head almost feels foggy. 


The first thing to do to contain and take control of panic is to focus upon  our breathing, coming back to our breathing helps calm us down and allows our thoughts to become clearer.


If we can begin a breathing exercise we can ease our other symptoms too.

We can practice the following: 


Ø  Take a deep breath in through your nose slowly counting 1…2…3…4….5… in your mind.  Which also helps

     to  focus our thoughts as we count the numbers it may help to count them out loud as we are  breathing.

Ø  Breathe out slowly through our mouth counting 1…2…3…4….5… in your mind or out loud.

Ø  Do this for around five breaths and then breath normally again for five breathes.

Ø  Then repeat the five slow deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth to the count of five, think

    about taking in enough breath so when you breath out again you are able to blow the dandelion clock seed of the

    stems until.  Then breath at your normal rate until  you feel more comfortable

Ø  After the first round of deep breathing you should begin to start feeling a little less fear and panic and by the end of

     the second round of deep breathing you should be calming down and returning to normal breathing.

Ø  Keep the counting and breathing going until you feel you are calmer and thoughts begin to become clear.

Ø  After a panic you may feel tired for a while and it would be a good time to have a rest for a 30 minutes or so to allow

    your body to fully return to normal functioning.


As with all exercises it is best to try them out and get familiar with them ‘before’ you go into a panic.  So if you do have a panic you will know what to do, how to do it, and your body will be more willing and able to adjust and become  its own first aid!  This type of breathing can be done throughout your daily activities and will also support you relaxing so a panic doesn’t have time to take hold.  Practice… practice …… practice!


When to visit your GP:


There are no quick fixes to panic it is a matter of practice focusing on your breathing and de-stressing.  Counselling may be of support to explore and challenge what makes you anxious and/or panic.  If the above does not improve your panic or you feel constantly overwhelmed, stressed or anxious and panic is the result or you are experiencing panic attacks daily or for a lot of your day then it would be a good idea to be checked out by your doctor!

  • Palpitations

  • Irregular heart beat

  • Dry mouth

  • Breathlessness

  • Sweating/chills

  • Flushing

  • Tense muscles

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