Panic Attacks and How to Help
Anxiety or Panic attacks can occur without warning and for no obvious reason. It is common among those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and flashbacks. In extreme cases, the symptoms may be accompanied by an acute fear of dying. Although these attacks are distressing and can last from 5 minutes to over an hour, panic attacks are not life-threatening on their own. The individual basically feels out of control of himself/herself. The mind is in false ‘fight or flight’ mode, forcing the body to take over to help the victim face or run from the perceived danger, real or not. The urge is to escape at all costs and the mind is so stuck in fear that the thinking process is on hold.
Types of Traumatic Events
- Life-threatening accidents
- Serious medical events
- Unexpected death of loved one/seeing dead body
- Arson or house fire
- Domestic violence/physical abuse
- Sexual assault/violence
- Natural disaster
- Torture/mass violence
Origins and Symptoms of Panic Attacks
The cortisol and adrenaline hormones are released from the adrenal glands into the blood stream and the process begins which forms the core of a panic attack. The mind cannot distinguish the difference between a real danger from the one that occurs in the mind. If you believe it, then it is real for you at that moment. Persons affected may act and feel as if their lives are in danger. At this point, they are fully engaged and reacting as if they got to run or defend themselves, and as if they must act if they are going to survive.
Watch for these symptoms:
- If an affected person has never experienced a panic attack before, he/she will be panicking on two different levels. The first level symptoms includes sweating, stuttering, heavy or rapid breathing, increased heart rate, nausea and dizziness. At the second level, he/she does not know what is going on and the individual becomes delirious which in some cases it becomes life-threatening at times. If you can pinpoint that someone is going through a panic attack, this alleviates half the problem.
- Specific symptoms include:
- Palpitations or chest pain/acceleration of the heart rate (rapid heartbeat)
- Hyperventilation (over-breathing). This is different from Asthma where one can inhale, but exhaling is restricted
- Trembling/dizziness/light-headedness/feeling faint (this is usually from hyperventilating)
- Tingling/numbness in fingers or toes/ringing in the ears or temporary hearing loss
- Perspiration and nausea/abdominal cramps/hot flashes or chills
- Dry mouth/difficulty in swallowing
- Depersonalisation (disconnected feeling)/headache. If this is the first time the individual has experienced this, seek emergency medical attention. When in doubt, it is always best to seek immediate medical attention. This is even more important if the individual has diabetes, asthma, or other medical problems.
- The signs and symptoms of a panic attack can be similar to those of a heart attack. Do keep this in mind when assessing the situation (http://www.wikihow.com/Help-Someone-Having-a-Panic-Attack).
- During a panic attack, the best thing you can do for an affected individual is to be fully present with the person going through it. Be reassuring. Do not argue or tell them that they are overreacting. This is not the time for that, as it only aggravates the situation. It can be condescending and judgmental and it does not help the individual in need of basic support. Allow them to talk, or not talk at all, let them cry and shake, help them to ‘ground’ and find their peace. Tell them that they are safe and okay. Give them a jacket or blanket, keep them warm and quiet. Providing that simple form of containment helps when they feel scattered and overwhelmed.
- Once they calm down, give them a hug if they are comfortable with it. Do not touch a person who is having a panic attack without asking and obtaining definitive permission to do so. In some cases, touching the person without asking can increase the panic and make the situation worse.
- When situation is calmer, that is the time to work with them, to provide a few helpful tools they can use when things are difficult, if you have the training. Never judge or make derogatory statements, which are not helpful or supportive. Encourage the person to breathe. Breathing is especially difficult during a panic attack and someone experiencing it could forget to breathe properly. Tell them to take a deep breath (in) for four seconds, then breath out for four seconds, and repeat three times. Breathing helps, when done correctly.
- The key is to help affected individuals focus on being present, reassuring them that they are safe and not alone.
- For individuals with persistent episodes of panic attacks, it may be helpful to seek medical attention at the soonest possible time.
How Chiropractic Can Help
For individuals suffering from panic attacks, chiropractic care can help balance the nervous system which is the master system of the body of an individual and alleviate or eliminate the symptoms of panic attack. Get adjusted regularly because an aligned body is more balanced which might perhaps reduce the occurrence of panic attacks in the long run.
Your Trusted Chiropractor
Dr. Nicholas Lim, D.C., ANutr, B.Sc. (Hons)
[Dr. of Chiropractic & Nutritionist &
Treasurer of Chiropractic Association of Singapore]
WhatsApp :+65 9352 8828
Telephone : +65 6970 8152
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org