Panic attacks can be very common in Perimenopause and can be very scary when experienced for the first time, I often see with clients that Panic attacks can happen when they are feeling at their most calmest point and tis creates further confusion as to why they happen.
What is a Panic Attack ?
These are sudden attacks of very intense anxiety or fear during which you feel you are going to die, go crazy or lose control in some way. Panic attacks can happen without any warning, can last for a few minutes or as much as an hour. They are experienced on a very physical level and often start from physical sometimes you may not notice – a clenched jaw, tightness in shoulders, persistent shallow breathing which can lead quickly to a sense of breathlessness. The physical symptoms may have been triggered by anxious thoughts but now the sense of breathing difficulty is causing even more anxiety and panic – a natural response to feeling you can’t breathe.
Other physical triggers for panic attacks can be low blood sugar, extreme dehydration or lack of sleep, which combined or separately can lead to feeling dizzy, light headed, breathlessness and a sudden onset of panic or feeling of loss of control.
While people often describe panic attacks as ‘coming out of the blue’, there will often be an underlying trigger or combination of triggers, which have not been identified. Tracing back and knowing the triggers allows you to put steps in place to avoid them.
What can trigger a Panic Attacks ?
Common triggers would be facing a challenge and feeling overwhelmed by it, for example if fearful of being alone at night, driving on the road alone would seem daunting or if you have a fear of social encounters, making a trip to the supermarket might be an obvious trigger. In some cases, people feel a tightness in their chest or throat or churning stomach, which can lead them to believe they are in the grip of heart attack or a serious life threatening illness, thoughts that quickly escalate the sense of panic.
The panic stems from the confusion you feel and the feeling that you are losing control; the accompanying adrenaline surge affects any rational thinking during a panic attack. It is only when the adrenal gland becomes totally exhausted that the attack subsides as it cannot release any more. This is why, when you start managing panic, that light exercise (walking around the room) is such an effective treatment – it helps exhaust the adrenal gland and dissipates the panic.
Panic attacks are very common: it’s estimated that one in five people will have at least one in their lifetime. After experiencing one panic attack, it’s normal to worry about having another, You might start avoiding situations or activities that you think might trigger an attack, like shopping centres, public transport, airplanes, lifts or being alone. If you can observe that pattern, it’s a good time to have a panic management plan in place.
In some cases panic attacks can be a result of an underlying physical condition like thyroid issues, low iron, and heart and lung imbalances - and so for this reason we would always suggest a checkup with your doctor to rule out any physical causes.
Step by step guide for Panic Attacks
§ Breathe – use any of the techniques outlined for breathing that you like. The clenched fist and progressive muscle relaxation techniques are great ones for panic attacks. Breathing into a paper bag can also really help, you are breathing in the air you have just breathed out which stops you form losing so much carbon dioxide and reduces the symptoms of low oxygen.
§ Try not adding in negative internal dialogue in your head.
§ Remind yourself a panic attack is an excess of adrenaline in the body due to chronic underlying stress
§ Ice cube tip – if you have access to an ice cube try chewing one and also rubbing it on your inside wrist and the back of your neck (some people find relief from this).
§ Exercise: Pace the room, walk during a panic attack. Just try it – it works! You will burn off excess adrenaline which will shorten the attack; physical movement can help the body while it is in fight/flight mode.
§ Write down the thought and images going through your mind
§ Remember: It will pass
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