• 21
  • Jan

How to handle your first panic attack

More than 10% of Americans have panic attacks, and up to 3% have panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder featuring both ongoing panic attacks and intense fears around those attacks.  

, we specialize in telehealth psychiatry and psychotherapy for patients in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Illinois. 

We know how and why panic attacks and panic disorders happen, and our goal is to guide you through the symptoms while preventing them from disrupting your life again. 

Today’s blog covers how you can navigate your first panic attack and get through an intensely challenging time successfully. A few effective methods for coping with panic attacks on the spot include: 

Deep breathing

Many panic attacks feature too-fast breathing (hyperventilation), so focusing on breath control can help you get through it. Focus on deliberately deep and slow breathing, taking air in through your nose and releasing it through your mouth. 

An effective one to try is the 4-7-8 technique, which originates from pranayama yoga techniques. To practice this technique, breathe in and count to four, then hold your breath for seven seconds. Finally, breathe out, counting to eight as you do so.

Breathing using this or other breathing techniques helps redirect your focus and can help slow your mind to ease the symptoms of your panic attack. 

Muscle relaxation 

When you’re having a panic attack, your muscles usually tense or even grow painfully tight all over your body. Muscle relaxation can be extremely helpful during a panic attack. It engages your mind and helps you stay present in the moment while also easing muscle soreness. 

One simple way to relax your muscles is to focus on each muscle group in turn: consciously relax your neck muscles, shoulder muscles, and on down your body until you’ve released the tension from every muscle group.  

Engaging your senses

Engaging your senses can help you stay grounded to reality and help prevent your anxiety from feeding on itself. 

Some common ways to engage your senses include closing your eyes and listening to all the sounds around you, sniffing something with a potent smell (for example, mint), rubbing an ice cube on your wrist or holding it in your hand, or stroking a fuzzy blanket and focusing on the texture.

After your panic attack 

Panic attacks are often rooted in anxiety, so it’s important to find the root of your anxiety and address it through psychotherapy and psychiatry. 

Our seasoned specialists offer anxiety medication, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and other methods of helping you cope with and overcome your panic attacks while reducing their frequency. 

These approaches are often remarkably effective. For example, up to 80% of people who try CBT for panic disorder have no further attacks, and many others have greatly reduced frequency and intensity. 

Need help with panic attacks? Our compassionate professionals are here for you. Phone the nearest office, or contact us online today.