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Coping With Anxiety & Panic: A Useful 4 Part Artical

Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
This is a self-help guide into coping with anxiety and panic. It is a huge document which you are welcome to print off. It originated from my family's archives found on their desktop computer.

Towards the end are included some easy to understand breathing and relaxing exercises to help you cope with a panic attack.


A background on Anxiety Symptoms

Smothering sensations and Shortness of breath
These sensations are amongst the more distressing anxiety symptoms. Sometimes it feels as if your chest will not expand to accommodate the air your body needs, other times it feels as if someone is pushing a pillow into your face. The one thing to remember should you experience this is that it’s only a sensation caused by exaggerated nerve impulses. These symptoms will not and cannot harm you; you will not stop breathing, pass out or suffocate.

Racing heart, slow heart beat, palpitations
Anxiety releases adrenaline into the blood stream making the heart race and feel as if it is missing beats, (palpitations). This is perfectly natural and will not and cannot harm you in any way. Later I will discuss methods you can use to help stop these feelings. A slow heart beat is also a common feature of anxiety, again it does not mean that your heart will stop beating, it may feel odd and alarming but again do not give it any credibility and it will go away.

Chest Pain
Caused by muscle tension, chest pains can make you feel very scared. The initial reaction of anyone with anxiety who gets pains in their chest is that they are dying of a heart attack. This is not true. Heart pain is very different to this pain and very often does not start in the chest. Deep breathing and relaxation exercises are a very effective way of diminishing these unpleasant symptoms. If you can get somebody to massage your upper back, shoulders and chest, it will help to relax tired and achy muscles.

Lump in throat & Difficulty swallowing
Globus Hystericus is the correct term for this symptom. It is caused by the muscles in the throat contracting due to anxiety or stress. Sometimes it feels like you cannot swallow anything and trying to makes it worse. This is another example of a symptom, which will improve if you give it no credibility. It is totally harmless and will not cause you to stop breathing, eating or drinking, it is just very unpleasant.

Skin losing colour (blanching)
As blood is diverted to the muscles during the ‘flight or fight’ response, the fine blood vessels in your skin that gives the skin that pink, healthy colour receive reduced blood flow and the skin loses some of its colour. It is not dangerous and will return to normal as the body starts to normalise after an attack. Some people with generalised anxiety can look a little pale most of the time, again this is quite normal and will return to normal.

Sweating is a normal bodily reaction and is designed to reduce the body temperature. As the body heats up sweat is released onto it through sweat glands. As the sweat evaporates it takes heat with it, cooling the body. During periods of anxiety the body is preparing itself for either flight or fight and releases sweat to cool the impending exertions. As the anxiety subsides sweat levels return to normal.

Shaking or shivering (Visibly or internally)
We all shake or shiver when we are nervous or cold. Shaking is a normal reaction to fear and/or a drop in body temperature. Shaking occurs when the muscles spasmodically contract creating friction between muscles and other body tissues. This friction creates heat which raises body temperature. During anxiety it is quite normal to experience shaking or shivering. It will pass.

Neck & shoulder pain & numbness in face or head
The blood vessels and nerves, which supply the face and head, originate in the neck and shoulders. Many of these nerves and blood vessels are routed across the head to the face. When the body is under stress these areas of the body are usually the first to become tense. Facial numbness can be very disturbing but is usually nothing to worry about and is usually the result of this tension.

Rapid gastric emptying
This can be a very unpleasant side effect of both anxiety and tranquilliser use. This condition causes the sufferer to feel full very early on in a meal, sometimes making them feel as if they cannot breathe. Then soon after eating they can experience diarrhoea and feel as if their whole digestive system is emptying very quickly indeed.

Indigestion, heartburn, constipation and diarrhoea
During periods of anxiety the body diverts blood from various parts of the body to the muscle tissues in order to supply them with the oxygen needed by them during the flight or fight response. One of the main areas where blood is used most is around the digestive tract. Blood is sent there to absorb nutrients from the food we eat. As blood is diverted away from the stomach during anxiety, the digestion slows and the muscles around the stomach can become knotted. This can cause indigestion, heartburn and diarrhoea or constipation. Sexual Dysfunction Impotency, or failure to achieve or maintain an erection, effects many men for many reasons, sometimes there is a physical reason for this but more often than not there is a psychological element.

Symptoms of urinary tract infection
Medication can have many and some times quite obscure side effects including the symptoms of a urinary tract infections. It is always advisable to get these things checked out by your doctor but even if you do have an infection it can be easily treated. Drinking plenty of water is always advisable to maintain good, general health but even more so when the body is under stress.

Skin rashes
Skin rashes, spots or dryness are all very common symptoms of anxiety and stress. It is quite common to get an eczema like rash around the nose, cheeks and forehead. They are nothing to worry about and usually disappear when you start to feel better.

Weakness in arms & tingling in the hands or feet
The flight or fight response is an intense reaction and causes many systems of the body to react. Circulation, blood oxygen and blood carbon dioxide levels change and muscle tension is altered in preparation for action. All of these bodily changes have a profound effect on bodily sensations, feeling week in the extremities, (arms, hands, legs or feet) is one of these sensations. Tingling is usually caused by the pooling of blood carbon dioxide in the limbs, shaking the hands, arms, legs and feet can help increase circulation to these areas. These symptoms are not harmful and will return to normal. Light exercise is very helpful in reversing these sensations. THEY DO NOT MEAN YOU ARE EXPERIENCING A STROKE OR ANY OTHER NEUROLOGICAL CONDITION!!

Electric shock feeling anywhere in the body
The nervous system is a very complex network of electrically charged nerves which are found in every square centimetre of your body, around every organ, muscle and across your skin, the largest organ in the body. Abnormal nerve impulses due to anxiety can cause a vast array of strange sensations; although quite harmless these can be very disturbing.

Dry mouth
As fluids are diverted for use in other parts of the body during anxiety, the mouth becomes dry. Sip water or suck sweets to lubricate your mouth. In extreme cases your doctor can prescribe a liquid to do this but it is expensive. It cannot harm you and will go away after the anxiety subsides.

One of the more distressing effects of anxiety, insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or to remain asleep. It is important to regain regular sleep patterns as lack of sleep can lead to disturbing symptoms.

Dreams and nightmares tend to mimic what is going on in our daily lives. If we are relaxed and contented we have pleasant dreams and usually do not remember them. If we are disturbed or confused our dreams are more likely to be too. Nightmares are unpleasant but harmless, the more you master good sleep and practice breathing and relaxation exercises the better your dreams will become.

Fears of going mad or losing control
We all have a fear of going mad or losing control but rest assured you are not going mad. Going mad is not a conscious act; those who are suffering from severe mental illness are unaware of their journey into it. You are not going mad. Confused nervous messages to the brain along tired nerves in a tired body do not constitute madness. Thoughts are an unconscious product of brain activity. If you are anxious, angry, sad or stressed your thoughts are affected, not only by mood, but also by your physical body chemistry. Blood oxygen levels can affect brain activity and the central nervous system, as can many other bodily chemicals like adrenaline, hormones and even vitamins. These un-pleasant thoughts, emotions and totally irrational fears are not harmful to yourself or others. Any thoughts of harming yourself or other people are perceived only. As you body becomes more relaxed and less anxious your thought processes will return to normal.

Increased depression & suicidal feelings
Depression is a word that is commonly misused to describe a variety of conditions. I hear many people in every day life who say, “I am depressed, I feel terrible, I am so fed up”; this is, in most cases, not depression. Depression is a series of chemical imbalances that create a clinical illness that has strong links with anxiety disorders and can be a side effect of them. Anxiety has many features of depression and can mimic it quite strongly. When someone goes to the doctor complaining of feeling run down and fed up, it is all too easy to write a prescription for Prozac, Seroxat or another anti-depressant. I wonder how many people are on anti-depressants who just needed to reassess and restructure their lives.

When you feel tired, ill, fed up and held back by your condition you are bound to feel angry. One of the main causes of true anger is actually sadness. Think back to a situation that has made you feel anger, if you dissect that event you might find that the true reason for feeling so angry was a feeling of sadness. Aggression is a normal reaction to fear also, the fight or flight response prepares us to either run or fight, sometimes to fight may seem to be the best response.

Symptoms like 'flu'
Influenza causes the body to release anti-bodies into the blood stream to attack the virus. This combination of anti-bodies and infection makes the body feel weak, sweaty and painful. Anxiety can have a similar effect, weakening the muscles, making you clammy and achy. Believe it or not the more you do physically the better this will become.

Distorted vision
In order to prepare the body for impending danger, adrenaline release causes many physical changes. During the anxiety response the body prepares the eyes to notice any slight movements; it does this by dilating the pupils allowing more light to enter. This is why anxious people become more sensitive to bright light and often wear sunglasses to minimize the eyestrain it causes.

Disturbed hearing
This is called tinitus and is usually experienced as whistling or screeching noises in either or both ears.

Hormone problems
Anxiety can affect various systems of the body, one of which is the endocrine system. This system is responsible for balancing the glands, which secrete hormones in the body. Although these glands secrete the hormones needed by the body, they do not control the levels of these chemicals, this is done by the brain. Disturbed messages in the brain and nervous system can cause slight irregularities in the secretion of these chemicals. When anxiety levels return to normal so will the hormone levels. There are few examples where these hormones cause serious problems and if they do your doctor can correct them. Women may find that their menstrual cycle is temporarily effected and men may find that they have mood swings whilst testosterone levels are affected.

Headaches & feelings of having a tight band around head
As discussed earlier, tension in the neck and shoulders can cause immense discomfort, migraine and numbness. The feeling of having a tight band around your head is caused by muscular tension in the sheath of muscles covering the skull. Restricted blood vessels and nerves within this tissue can cause very severe symptoms including pain in the eyes, face and teeth.

Sore eyes
Reduced lubrication in the eyes when body fluids are diverted elsewhere during anxiety causes the eyes to feel sore, dry and painful.

Agoraphobia is a natural response to anxiety and self-preservation. If we feel threatened we tend to retreat to somewhere safe, like a tortoise into its shell. In anxiety it is important to gain control of this response as soon as you feel it developing. Avoidance of situations is not an effective tool in the fight against agoraphobia.

Mostly experienced by people in withdrawal, hallucinations can be very frightening indeed if you do not understand what they are and where they come from. Hallucinations are another example of transient symptoms. If you are in withdrawal they will pass, if you are not in withdrawal consult your doctor, as they may be a side effect of the drugs that you have been prescribed.

Creeping or pins and needles sensations in the skin
The nerve endings in your skin are alive with electrical impulses, these can feel like creeping sensations, pins and needles or tickling, they are the result of confused nerve impulses and cannot harm you.

Increased sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and smell
All of these sensitivities are to prepare your senses to see, smell, hear and feel more when in impending danger during the fight or flight response. All of these feeling are unusual but not dangerous, they are temporary and will return to normal as your anxiety levels reduce.

Hyperactivity is a way of describing a range of symptoms that cause you to feel as if you need to talk faster and do things faster. It can make you feel confused and irrational and can make you do things that you would not usually do. This is a common feature of anxiety and drug withdrawal and will pass in time.

Dramatic increase in sexual feelings
As the brain copes with disturbed and confused messages from all around the body, some of the mind’s thought processes can become a little distorted or exaggerated. Sexual thoughts and emotions are typically very strong even when in good health, they are what drive the attraction mechanism when we meet people we find attractive and create the sexual feelings we feel for some people.

Pain in the face or jaw that resembles a toothache
The term “face ache” comes from this feature of anxiety. Most of this symptom is caused by tension, not only in the face, neck and shoulders, which can refer pain to the jaw and teeth, but also in the jaw itself.

Derealisation and depersonalisation
These are both symptoms, which affect the way you experience yourself. Derealisation is the sensation that you and everything around you is not real or dreamy, as if you are seeing everything through a fog or some kind of filter. It has been noticed that people experience both depersonalisation and derealisation during panic. It seems that some people dissociate first which then causes panic and derealisation.

It is not important to try and understand the physiology of the human body but it is important to remember that every symptom you experience can be explained. Do not dwell on what you are feeling, instead, project yourself into more useful subjects, do something constructive, exercise, learn a skill or craft and escape the body trap.


  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru


    Ten rules for coping with Panic.

    Remember, feelings of panic are just exaggerations of normal bodily stress reactions.

    Sensations are neither harmful nor dangerous - just unpleasant. Nothing worse will happen.

    Stop adding to the panic with frightening thoughts of where panic will lead.

    Stay in the present. Be aware of what is happening to you rather than concern yourself with how much worse it might get.

    Wait and give the fear time to pass.

    Notice that when you stop adding to panic with frightening thoughts, the fear begins to fade.

    Focus on coping with facing the fear rather than trying to avoid it or escape from it.

    Look around you. Plan what you will do next as the panic subsides.

    Think about the progress made so far, despite all the difficulties.

    When you are ready to go on, do so in an easy, relaxed manner. There is no hurry.

    Each time you cope with panic, you reduce your fear!


    Choose a few of the statements below that appeal to you and practice saying them out loud to yourself. When you get anxious, use them to stop the "stinking thinking". Once you learn to trust these new thoughts, your brain will automatically replace the negative thought process with the more positive one.

    Remember that it takes about three weeks to make or break a habit so don't give up!

    Remind yourself gently but firmly that your negative thoughts are not helping you with your recovery and that you have chosen to move forward and think more positively.


    1. I'm going to be all right. My feelings are not always rational. I’m just going to relax, calm down, and everything will be all right.

    2. Anxiety is not dangerous -- it’s just uncomfortable. I am fine. I’ll just continue with what I’m doing or find something more active to do.

    3. Right now, I have some feelings I don’t like. They are really just phantoms, however, because they are disappearing. I will be fine.

    4. Right now I have feelings I don’t like. They will be over with soon and I’ll be fine. For now, I am going to focus on doing something else around me.

    5. That picture (image) in my head is not a healthy or rational picture. Instead, I’m going to focus on something healthy.

    6. I’ve stopped my negative thoughts before and I’m going to do it again now. I am becoming better and better at deflecting these automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) and that makes me happy.

    7. So I feel a little anxiety now, SO WHAT? It’s not like it’s the first time. I am going to take some nice deep breaths and keep on going. This will help me continue to get better."


    1. I’ve done this before so I know I can do it again.

    2. When this is over, I’ll be glad that I did it.

    3. The feeling I have about this trip doesn’t make much sense. This anxiety is like a mirage in the desert. I’ll just continue to "walk" forward until I pass right through it.

    4. This may seem hard now, but it will become easier and easier over time.

    5. I think I have more control over these thoughts and feelings than I once imagined. I am very gently going to turn away from my old feelings and move in a new, better direction.


    1. I can be anxious and still focus on the task at hand. As I focus on the task, my anxiety will go down.

    2. Anxiety is a old habit pattern that my body responds to. I am going to calmly and nicely change this old habit. I feel a little bit of peace, despite my anxiety, and this peace is going to grow and grow. As my peace and security grow, then anxiety and panic will have to shrink.

    3. At first, my anxiety was powerful and scary, but as time goes by it doesn’t have the hold on me that I once thought it had. I am moving forward gently and nicely all the time.

    4. I don’t need to fight my feelings. I realize that these feelings won’t be allowed to stay around very much longer. I just accept my new feelings of peace, contentment, security, and confidence.

    5. All these things that are happening to me seem overwhelming. But I’ve caught myself this time and I refuse to focus on these things. Instead, I’m going to talk slowly to myself, focus away from my problem, and continue with what I have to do. In this way, my anxiety will have to shrink away and disappear.


    0 CALM
    Most relaxed you have ever felt.
    This would be how a person with panic would feel on an average basis

    Having a bad day but nothing we cannot handle.

    Usually physical symptoms- feelings of dizziness, or being out of breath, or other symptoms would begin here as adrenaline begins to release into the body.

    "What if" thoughts are escalating.

    Feeding the panic spiral... "what if" thoughts are out of control.

    Desensitisation. Feeling like you are going to pass out, faint, go crazy. All of the senses are out of whack. Adrenaline is pumping through the body at tremendous speed.

    Feeling incapacitated, need to retreat. Usually people give up and head back to safety zones. Cannot stand it one more minute- whole body shaking, dizzy and many other symptoms.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru


    Fight the Fear with Knowledge

    Heart Pounding: Heart speeding up to move blood and oxygen faster
    Breathing faster: Obtaining more oxygen for the muscles
    Chest Pain: Chest muscles tightening
    Rubbery Legs: Blood supply building up in the legs decreased
    Disassociation: Less oxygen and blood to the brain
    Light Sensitivity: Pupils have opened for more acute vision
    Sweating: Fight or flight reflex-body is harder to hold onto
    Tingling in the mouth: Result of hyperventilation
    Numbness in Hands: Diversion of blood to the muscles
    Choking Sensation: Muscle tension
    Shaking: Muscle Tension
    Vision Distortion: Effect of pupils opening wider

    Comforting a person during their panic attack

    If you have never experienced a panic attack, you may wonder how you could ever help your loved one. It is difficult when you do not understand what we need and sometimes it is just as hard for us to tell you. Here, then, are some suggestions from our members in their own words, as well as some insight as to what we may be experiencing.

    1. If we go somewhere, please give me the control to be there or to leave. I will stay longer when I feel more in control and not helpless.
    2. Accept that this is part of me for now. It will change the more I feel I have control of my environment and feel comfortable adapting to what is going on around me.
    3. DO NOT PRESSURE ME with your silent or expressed anger or annoyance because we might have to leave. That only makes it more difficult for me next time.
    4. Understand that I do not want to have this and I must find my path out of it my way.

    Just be there for me. Let me move at my own pace but keep me moving and please don't force me into anything I don't want to do. Make sure I know that I have a way out. Keep me in the present and distract me with conversation. Re-assure me that everything is ok. Ask me if there's anything you can do to make me more comfortable. Remind me to start by doing simple tasks and then work up to more difficult ones. Don't get mad, angry, or upset with me if I can’t do something. Make sure I am feeling good before going out and practicing, not hungry, tired etc. If I can't do something, let me know that it was a good try and that next time I will do even better.

    Although you may not be able to relate to what I am going through, please don't tell me to "just snap out of it." Boy, I sure would if I could. Realize that when I am going through a panic attack, everything seems out of control so do not put any demands on me. Tell me that although you may not know exactly what I'm experiencing, you are there for me and you realize that it must be very difficult. Don't try to psychoanalyse me to figure out why I may be feeling panicky

    A way to help is to be sensitive to me and not judgemental. It is a real and unpleasant feeling and telling me "to get a grip" is not the answer. No one chooses to be like this- it is exhausting, debilitating and not so easy to overcome. Patience is the key for anyone who wants to help someone with PD. Just get educated, learn the tools and time will heal.

    Be understanding of the moment when panic does take place. Be there for me and pitch in to help me ride the moment out. Whether it be exiting, holding my hand, talking me down, or whatever it takes. Stay with the moment and do not desert me. Sometimes, just being there by my side even in silence does help. Your presence can simply be my "security blanket" in overcoming that terrible moment!

    First and foremost: TRY TO UNDERSTAND! Then, try to reassure me and whatever you do, don't minimise what I am feeling. To me, it is VERY REAL!

    Reassure me that I am OK and you are there for me. Touch me gently, sometimes someone touching me brings me back to reality. Encourage me for ANY ACCOMPLISHMENT, no matter how small it may seem to you...it's a LOT for me. Positive reinforcement helps give me the strength to conquer the fear and builds self esteem and reassures me that I WILL overcome this disorder. People who are not supportive or think it's all in our head should be AVOIDED. These people HURT us and stunt our growth. I have tried to stay away from NEGATIVE people. If they don't understand and accept me for the person I am, then it's not worth bothering with them.

    Be patient. Don't get mad at me. Talk to me- it helps get my mind off of the panic. The main thing is be supportive. It means a lot.

    Advise them to get cognitive therapy. The MEDS help but the fear of the fear can be the worst. That's where I have the toughest time. All the WHAT IF'S etc.

    Know as much as you can about this disorder if you really want to help me. Lead me through things that are difficult for me, small steps at a time. Let me know that you understand what I need and let me lead the way. Don't ever try to make me stay at or in a place that is uncomfortable for me- help me get to my safe place. The next time, I will feel more at ease because you have shown you are dependable and do not want to force me into something that I am not ready to do. Soon, you will see how much your effort is helping me, a person can actually change a person's life with knowledge, understanding and kindness.

    Talk to me and assure me that you will not force me into anything I don't want to do and that you will take me to my safe place if need be. Just conversation- laughter would be great. Help me get involved with something- like focusing on something else. For me, I need to hear sounds and laughter but the most important thing for me is to have someone to talk to who understands and we can just talk through this.

    The best thing others can do to help us is just be there for us and listen to us.
    Don't criticize what we have to say or what we feel associated with panic and make us sound like a weak human being.

    "The Colour of Ink".
    This is one of the strongest tools, in my opinion, to help me through panic. And by this I mean just TALK to me, about anything or nothing at all. Talk about the clouds, the grass I am standing on, the light across from me, THE COLOR OF INK. Talk about the different colours ink comes in nowadays. These little calm thoughts send me messages that I am ok and that life is calm. Ink comes in many colours and we can even name them- very calm talk about nothing at all and I am under control.
    When I am with a panic friend, I rub their back lightly if they allow this, tell them they are ok, and ramble until they once again find their strong focus.
    Make me smile, make me laugh, always remember panic cannot exist when a person is laughing.

    1. Ask me questions.
    2. Try to understand that I am not "crazy". This is a chemical imbalance in the brain It can be controlled by medications and positive strides.
    3. Don't treat me any differently once you know about the panic.
    4. Don't force me to go someplace I feel very uncomfortable about going. Do not surprise me by doing it anyhow.
    5. If I leave early, please try to understand. Don't bad mouth me behind my back and then let me hear about it later.

    Try and find something that distracts me. Start talking about other things. Be supportive, listen to what I am saying. We all need different things- all of us have different things that help us. Encourage me in my successes and buoy me up when I feel like I've had a failure. If they have tools, help them remember them, and even help them use them. Try to have them concentrate on breathing and trying to relax their bodies.

    Do not leave me- talk to me, touch me, rub my back, and reassure me. Just keep talking about anything so that I have to concentrate on your talking and can try to ignore the panic. Know the tools for controlling panic attacks and remind me of some ideas I can use.

    You can make a world of difference in the life of someone you love by trying to understand panic disorder and in learning what you can do to help us. Your support is a critical link in our recovery.

  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    And, PART FOUR


    Panic Disorder is highly treatable, bringing significant relief to almost 90% of patients. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical to keeping the disorder from progressing to agoraphobia.

    Even if panic disorder is diagnosed, patients should undergo a thorough medical examination to rule out all other possible causes of their symptoms before treatment. This is necessary because other conditions, including thyroid disease, epilepsy, and cardiac arrhythmias, can cause symptoms resembling those of panic disorder.

    Effective treatments available for panic disorder and agoraphobia include cognitive-behavioural therapy and many different forms of medications. Individual needs and patient preferences should be considered in selecting treatment with reassessment being necessary if significant effects are not produced within 6 to 8 weeks. You should consult a therapist or a counsellor just to ensure you are on the right track. :)

    When Panic Strikes
    A sudden surge of terror hits out of nowhere. Your heart pounds. You feel like you're going crazy. What you're feeling is a panic attack. It could happen anywhere–the grocery store, the mall, your car. During a panic attack, the body misinterprets an ordinary situation as an awful, terrifying event. Caused by a misfiring of chemicals in the brain, panic attacks are common. Fortunately, they are usually treatable.

    Symptoms of a Panic Attack
    You may feel some of these symptoms:
    Terror or dread
    Racing or pounding heartbeat, chest pains
    Dizziness, light-headedness, nausea
    Smothering sensation, trouble breathing
    Flushes or chills
    A sense of unreality; fear of losing control

    Panic Attacks Can Disrupt Your Life
    Once you've had a panic attack, you may begin to fear having another one. This fear and anxiety is called panic disorder. You may connect certain situations and places with attacks–grocery shopping, crowds, elevators, malls, cars. This can lead to a condition called agoraphobia, where you restrict your movements to a few limited areas where you feel safe.

    Panic Attacks Can Be Treated
    Panic attacks are terrifying, but by working with your doctor or other health care provider, you can learn how to regain control of your life.

    In the early days, when humans were still living in caves, we needed to react quickly to danger to survive. A response called fight or flight developed. When faced with a threat, such as a hungry saber-toothed tiger, a release of chemicals in the body made us act quickly, without thinking, to defend ourselves or run away. This reaction, which is still with us today, may be the basis of panic attacks. During a panic attack, the fight-or-flight reaction is triggered at an inappropriate time–a false alarm. The causes of false alarms aren't clear. Panic attacks tend to run in families and usually affect young adults, but no age, race, or gender is immune.

    Getting Help
    If you're having panic attacks, don't be afraid to get help. The attacks are real, and the feelings you're having are not your fault. Treatment for panic attacks is covered by most health insurance plans. Check what's covered under your plan. Then see your doctor or other mental health professional for evaluation and treatment.

    Your Evaluation
    During your evaluation, you'll be asked about your symptoms. Answer these questions as honestly as possible. A physical exam or tests can rule out an underlying physical problem as the cause of your symptoms. After you've been evaluated, you may be given medications to help block symptoms of panic attacks, and counselling to help you overcome the fear surrounding them.

    Several types of medications are used to treat panic attacks. Your doctor will choose the medication and dosage best suited for you. It may take a few tries before the best one is found, but stick with it.

    If fear of panic attacks is restricting your life, counselling can help. Counselling gives you information and teaches you skills, such as relaxation techniques and ways to change negative thinking, that help you control your fear instead of having it control you.

    Taking Back Your Life
    You can't control the chemical release that causes the actual panic attack. But you can learn ways to cope with panic attacks.

    What to Do During an Attack
    Remind yourself that your body is having a false alarm. Nothing bad will happen to you. You've survived attacks before, and you will this time, too.
    Try not to think frightening thoughts about what might happen. You won't die or go crazy.
    Don't fight your feelings. Let them come and ride them out. Focus on a task like counting backward from 100. Think about someplace relaxing, such as a tropical island or quiet meadow. Ask your doctor or counsellor to suggest other relaxation techniques.

    Overcoming the Fear
    Fear of a panic attack can make you miserable, but you can overcome it. Ask your doctor or counsellor for help, and remember these tips:
    Keep in mind that places and activities don't cause attacks. Separate the attack from the situation, and make an effort not to avoid the situation in the future.
    Don't give in to the temptation to use alcohol or unprescribed drugs as an escape. In the long run, they will only add to your problems.

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