Experiencing a panic attack is extremely frightening. Especially as they often happen for no obvious reason and at random. They can make you feel out of control and powerless, some people describe the sensation as feeling they are about to die or are going mad. Despite the severity of these feelings, they are not uncommon and many people learn to cope with and eventually overcome panic attacks.
It helps if you have a basic understanding of what is going on and taking the right kinds of brain supplements to correct the imbalance. It’s normal to have a physical reaction to certain stimuli such as fear, stress or even excitement. In these situations which could perceived as threatening, your body prepares itself for action by producing adrenaline, the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response. This kind of response would have been essential to the survival of our distant ancestors, preparing them to either attack or run away from danger. Even though today we seldom encounter this kind of danger, the primitive response remains. So what we call a panic attack is really a flooding of the body with adrenalin in response to something your brain interprets as life-threatening .Finding the appropriate brain vitamins and supplement formulas to ease these symptoms should be easy after further research.
The effects of adrenalin on the body are powerful and instantaneous. Your muscles tense up, ready for action. Your heart pumps harder, moving blood to the muscles where it’s needed. Your breathing speeds up, to taking in more oxygen to help your muscles change glycogen (sugar stored in the muscles) into energy. Your digestion slows down. You stop producing saliva so your mouth becomes dry. You start to sweat. Your senses become hyper alert. Adrenalin is a very powerful hormone and its release can cause both physical and emotional sensations.
Physical sensations are:
Rapid breathing or feeling unable to breathe
Ringing in your ears
Tingling or numbness in your hands and feet
Hot or cold flushes
Needing to go to the toilet
Emotional reactions include feelings of absolute terror or feelings of unreality, called depersonalisation and de-realisation. Depersonalisation causes people to feel detached from both their body and surroundings. Contrarily in de-realisation, people still feel connected to themselves and their physical body, but the world seems distant or strange.
Panic attacks happen very quickly with symptoms usually peaking within 10 minutes and lasting for anywhere between five and 20 minutes. While some people report panic attacks lasting longer than that, they are most likely experiencing multiple attacks, one after the other or a continued high level of anxiety afterwards. Not everyone who has a panic attack goes on to have another one. Isolated incidents, of one or two attacks brought on by severe situational stress are not uncommon. Some people have them more frequently, anything from once a month to several times a week.
You can even have panic attacks when you are asleep. It’s normal for you to monitor your bodily sensations while you’re asleep, new mums are hyper alert to the sound of crying babies for instance and you need to be able to wake up in time to get to the loo for example. But attacks at night can be quite frightening as waking in the night in the midst of an attack is confusing and you can’t see them coming.
In fact, not being able to see it coming is one of the most distressing aspects of suffering from panic attacks – they may seem completely unpredictable, and therefore uncontrollable. The most important thing to remember is that, however dreadful you may feel during an attack, you are not going mad and you are not going to die. The physical effects of panic attacks, such as breathlessness, are just part of the action of adrenaline. If you’re still worried about whether or not there might be some physical cause for your symptoms, see your GP, so he or she can rule them out.
Using brain vitamins to combat panic attacks work better if you understand the triggers
Panic attacks often make you feel out of control. They can make you feel like a victim of both your bodily reactions and outside circumstances. But you do have the power to control your symptoms and recognising this is the first step.
Self Help for Panic Attacks Starts with Knowledge and Acceptance (and the right brain supplement formula
Start by analysing your panic attacks in detail to see if you can identify a pattern. When did they happen? Where were you at the time? And probably most importantly, what were you thinking about? See if you can work out if certain thoughts are triggering your panic attacks, regardless of the outside circumstances. The more you learn about how, when and what causes your attacks the less frightening and uncontrollable they will feel.
It may feel counter-intuitive but experts now think that one of the most important steps to take towards controlling panic attacks is to simply accept them as they occur. Strange as it sounds, trying to fight or suppress the attacks can actually make them worse by increasing your internal sensations of fear and threat, which were usually the cause of the attack in the first place. Learning to ride them out will help you to realise that no actual harm will come to you. Remind yourself when in the middle of an attack that these frightening thoughts or sensations are signs of panic and will soon pass. Recognising panic attacks as unpleasant and embarrassing events which are not life-threatening can, by itself, start to reduce their severity.
When in the middle of an attack try to focus on your breathing, taking slow deliberate breaths into your belly, in and out to the count of three. It might be helpful to practice this kind of deep breathing daily, as many people habitually breathe too shallowly. Since an attack is likely to make you hyperventilate (breathe too quickly, taking in too much oxygen causing giddiness) knowing how to slow your breathing consciously will be very helpful. Lots of meditation techniques and some forms of yoga increase awareness of your breathing.
Learn a relaxation technique
If you habitually clench your jaw, and your shoulders are tensed up, this will generate further stress. Relaxation techniques focus on easing muscle tension and slowing down your breathing. It helps your mind to relax.
Replace negative with positive
Creating more positive mental imagery using techniques such as creative visualisation may be helpful to re-train your imagination Often people who suffer panic attacks have vivid imaginations but they have been using it against themselves, dwelling on all the things that can go wrong such as injury, illness, death or disaster. Instead you can train your imagination to focus on situations that give you a sense of well-being. You can imagine you are in a place that symbolises peace and relaxation for you, such as drifting on a lake or being in a secret glade in a forest. You can use visualisation also as a way to prepare yourself for potentially stressful situations, such as handling a confrontation or making a presentation.
Practice and patience are required though. If you have been thinking negatively for long period of time, it will also take time to change those mental habits. You may then gradually notice positive changes in the way you think of yourself and others.
If you’ve been having panic attacks because there are aspects of your life that are undermining your confidence, it may be useful to look at your family life, your job, and so on, and identify changes you would like to make. If you feel trapped in a situation, and find it very difficult to express your true feelings (to say ‘no’ or to set proper limits in relationships, for example), you may find assertiveness training helpful.
Unstable blood sugar levels can contribute to symptoms of panic. Eat regularly and avoid sugary foods and drinks, white flour and junk food. Caffeine, alcohol and smoking as well can all contribute to panic attacks.
On the spot help
If you are having a panic attack, try cupping your hands over your nose and mouth, or holding a paper bag (not plastic!) and breathing into it, for about 10 minutes. Just like the deep breathing mentioned earlier this will raise the level of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream and relieve some symptoms.
Running on the spot for about 30 seconds during a panic attack can help, this burst of physical activity will dissipate the adrenalin in the body.
If you have the tendency to feel unreal (depersonalisation), carry an object, such as the photograph of a loved one, to keep you focused on reality. Or keep something heavily textured, such as a strip of sandpaper that you can stroke to anchor yourself more firmly in the physical present.
Sam Jansen is a leading brain scientist, lawyer and author, studying neuroscience, social behaviors and the science of happiness.You can find him at Google+