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I’m having a panic attack: what to do?

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You are having a panic attack. Your heart is pounding in your throat and your sweat is breaking out. Your breathing is rapid and uncontrolled and you feel dizzy. You fear you will go crazy, pass out or even have a heart attack.

What can I do?

Are you or someone next to you currently experiencing a panic attack? You can apply these actions immediately;

 

  1. Reassure yourself or the other person in this moment.
    Are the symptoms recognizable because a panic attack has occurred before? Keep in mind that these are feelings of panic that will pass.
  2. Realize that these are feelings of panic.
    You won’t really go into cardiac arrest or faint.
  3. Try to breathe calmly
    Try slowing down your breathing: breathe in for three seconds and out for six. If that doesn’t work right away, try again. Slowly you will notice your breathing improving. Don’t breathe into a paper or plastic bag. This does not help.

    • Alternative breathing exercise: Inhale slowly through your nose for four counts, hold for four counts, then exhale slowly through your mouth for four counts. Repeat this a few times.
  4. Take a sip of water.
  5. Distract thoughts using the “5, 4, 3, 2, 1 exercise.
    1. Describe for yourself 5 things you see in the room;
    2. Name 4 things you can feel right now. For example, think of your feet touching the floor or the air you feel flowing up your nose;
    3. Name 3 things you can hear now. Maybe you hear traffic outside or you hear the dishwasher running;
    4. Name 2 things you can smell right now or 2 smells you find pleasant;
    5. Name 1 thing you can taste.
  6. Talk to someone.
    Is there no one with you? Then call someone you trust and know well;
  7. It may help to ground yourself sensorially.
    Hold something cold or warm, such as a cup of tea or a piece of ice cream. Feel the sensation and concentrate on it.
  8. Go outside.
    Take a walk or bike for a bit. Getting some fresh air and exercise will help you release the feelings of panic. Bringing movement into your body helps finish the anxiety cycle so your body feels “safe” again.

 

Suffer from panic more often

Is this not the first time? If you suffer from panic attacks more often and you notice that they make you behave differently, this can lead to a panic disorder. In the case of a panic disorder, you also sometimes have panic attacks without knowing what triggers them. Moreover, you are often afraid of having new panic attacks. You have then become fearful of the fear, so to speak.

 

 

Get help

Do you have questions about anxiety treatment or how to better cope with anxiety? Or are you unsure about when to see a psychologist?

Breathe in and out slowly, panic comes and goes. We are here for you.
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GZ-Psychologist Irene Bakker

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