Dealing with a panic attack

Hello, I’ve been having to put up with these intense flurry of emotions lately: Hyperventilation, extremely rapid heartbeat, nausea, and this unusual feeling that nothing around me is real. I lose the sensation of being on flat ground, even though I can clearly see my feet touching the floor. These occur simultaneously, lasting around 3-5 minutes at a time. Luckily, I can sense one coming, so I can escape the embarrassment and run to the store room. How do I deal with this in that situation?

What you describe fits the description of a panic attack. These can feel very scary and may be disruptive to day-to-day life. The good news is there are ways to manage and minimise these symptoms, so it’s great that you’ve taken this step to get some help.

One of the distressing things about panic attacks is not knowing what is happening or why. For some information on why panic attacks occur, and what those physical symptoms mean, try here. There are also some simple strategies you can use once the panic attack starts here. And finally, it can be helpful to practice some general breathing and relaxation strategies regularly, even when you are not panicking.

I’m wondering whether you have identified a trigger for these attacks? Or have you noticed an increase in anxiety in general? Some panic attacks are triggered by specific situations, places or thoughts. Others seem to come from nowhere, but may occur more often when life is stressful in general. It can be helpful to understand any underlying reasons for anxiety and panic, in order to address these and then prevent them from occurring.

If you’d like to explore this further, or practice some of above strategies with someone guiding you, it can be helpful to touch base with a counsellor or psychologist to explore the context of your symptoms, and to embark on treatment in a face-to-face-setting. You can do this by contacting Counselling and Psychological Services.

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