Controlling panic: What to do before, during and after a panic attack

Panic attacks are more common than you may think. It’s estimated 1 in 10 adults in the United States have panic attacks each year.

Panic attacks are sudden and cause physical symptoms that sometimes make people feel like they’re experiencing other severe medical conditions, like a heart attack.

Some symptoms of panic attacks include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fear of losing control
  • Nausea
  • Racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Numbness or tingling in fingers and/or toes
  • Shaking
  • Dizziness

Women are twice as likely as men to have a panic attacks and people of all ages, including children, can experience them. Panic attacks typically first occur during teen or early adult years.

Here are some tips to help yourself during a panic attack:

  • Try to reassure yourself that what you’re feeling is anxiety and not danger.
  • Manage your breathing. Inhale and exhale slowly.
  • Focus on your muscles. Tense one muscle at a time and then relax it. Do this until your entire body is relaxed.

If you find yourself frequently suffering from panic attacks, you should talk with a professional to explore psychotherapy, medications or a combination of the two.

There are simple things you can do to cut back on your chances of having a panic attack:

  • Eliminate or cut back on caffeine
  • Eliminate or cut back on alcohol consumption
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage your stress
  • Get enough sleep

UofL Health – Peace Hospital offers inpatient crisis stabilization, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs. If you or a family member are struggling with feelings of hopelessness, depression or anxiety, contact our Assessment and Referral Center for a no-charge assessment 24/7 at 502-451-3333 or 800-451-3637. Walk-ins welcome. Or contact the 24-Hour Crisis and Information Center Line at 502-589-4313 or 800-221-0446.