You may not always be able to avoid an anxiety attack, but here are 13 ways to manage or stop anxiety attacks when they happen
Although anxiety is a normal and sometimes healthy response to stress, an anxiety attack can be scary and hit you suddenly. An anxiety attack is a sudden episode of fear or panic, often accompanied by other symptoms such as palpitations, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, and tremors.
You may not always be able to avoid an anxiety attack, but here are 13 ways to manage or stop anxiety attacks when they happen.
13 ways to stop an anxiety attack
- Recognize what is happening: Recognizing that what you are experiencing is an anxiety attack and help you remember that this is not life-threatening and that it will pass.
- Try to stay calm: Try not to let negative thoughts overwhelm you or make you think of worse case scenarios. Keep in mind that the likelihood of something catastrophic happening is extremely low.
- Take deep breaths: Breathing deeply and slowly can help you reduce symptoms during an anxiety attack. Place your hand on your stomach and take deep breaths, which can increase blood flow to your brain and help you avoid hyperventilating.
- Identify triggers: If you are prone to panic attacks, you may have noticed that they tend to be exacerbated by hunger, tiredness, or sadness. Try to avoid emotional situations that can trigger an attack.
- Note signs before, during, and after: Jotting down your thoughts during and after an attack can help you to recognize when future attacks may be coming on and plan steps you can take to minimize the effects.
- Distract yourself: Keep your mind occupied by listening to music, spending time with a pet, or just taking a walk. One helpful technique involves focusing on naming 4 things you can see, touching 3 things, smelling 2 things, and tasting one thing around you.
- Relax your muscles: Make an effort to relax your muscles by practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques or stretching to avoid tension.
- Talk to someone: Share your feelings with a family member or friend who is understanding and can help you talk through your concerns.
- Talk to yourself: Repeat a mantra or a phrase to yourself, whether it is something as simple as “This too shall pass” or something more meaningful to you.
- Stay physically active: Regular exercise can help lower cortisol levels in the body, which could be a triggering factor for many panic attacks. Exercise is a natural stress booster and anxiety reliever.
- Seek medical help: Consult a mental health expert, who can teach you techniques to overcome anxiety attacks. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy can help you identify negative thoughts that contribute to anxiety attacks and provide you with strategies to manage them.
- Medications: If you are taking medications for anxiety, avoid skipping them. Your doctor may prescribe medications such as:
- Lifestyle changes: Simple lifestyle changes can help you keep anxiety attacks at bay. Examples include:
How long do anxiety attacks usually last?
For most people, a panic attack lasts about 5-20 minutes, and rarely lasts for more than 30 minutes.
When panic attacks occur or recur for no obvious reason and in the absence of danger or extreme stress, you may be suffering from panic disorder.
What are signs of an anxiety attack?
Anxiety attacks can inhibit your ability to think clearly and make you behave irrationally. Signs may include:
- Palpitations (rapid, racing heartbeat)
- Increased sweating
- Face flushing
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal cramps
- Stomach upset
- Increased frequency of urination
- Tightness in the throat
- Trembling or stammering
- Sense of impending doom
What triggers anxiety attacks?
While the exact cause of anxiety attacks are unknown, certain factors can predispose you to these attacks:
- Family history of depression or other mental health conditions
- Traumatic life events
- Chronic illnesses
- Substance abuse
- Alcohol or recreational drugs
What mental disorders are related to anxiety attacks?
Anxiety attacks may be linked to disorders such as: