Pandemic stress can cause panic attacks.

With a pandemic, election-year politics, protests, self-quarantine, job disruptions, empty sports stadiums, kids may or may not go back to school, bars closed, and other cultural aspects in turmoil, panic attacks can happen. Would you recognize one? What can you do to help?

A panic attack can happen quickly. Overwhelming fear and anxiety cause panic attacks. Warning signs can be shortness of breath, feelings of dread, dizziness, heart palpitations, and that feeling you are on death’s doorway.

The most common symptoms associated with panic attacks are increased heart rate, sweating, shaking, trembling, sharp pain in the chest, tingling in the hands, shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, stomach cramps, lightheadedness, and fainting. Some people mistake the symptoms they are having as a heart attack.

Heart attack symptoms typically are chest pain, pain in arms or shoulders, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and sweating. The symptoms are similar. If the person has chest pain and vomiting, it is best to call 911 to be safe.

Many people do not want to ask for help, especially if they have never had a panic attack before. If you have had one, you will most likely have more in your life. Ironically, a person can have a panic attack when sleeping or fully relaxed. Nearly three percent of Americans experience panic attacks.

The loss of control is the first thing you might try to help someone who is having a panic attack. Try to get them to control their breathing and calm down. You should remain as calm as you can. Your panic might make a situation worse.

The severity of a panic attack usually peaks after ten minutes. However, symptoms can last much longer. Your calmness and positiveness go a long way in helping to calm the person in a panic attack. Introduce yourself if the person is a stranger. Ask if they have had symptoms like what they are experiencing before. These little distractions help.

If they have had a panic attack before, ask how they recovered. If the person does not want your help, you do not have to feel compelled to stay with them. If that makes them more comfortable, then leave them.

The general guidelines to help people in panic attacks is to remain calm, stay positive, remain nonjudgmental, remind the person that it is temporary, and be friendly. One technique that has been effective is to have the person count backward or do simple math problems. It takes their mind off their symptoms and focuses elsewhere.

Ask if they know where they are, what day of the week it is, and other simple non-threatening questions. There is a 5-4-3-2-1 technique that is used sometimes. Use the person’s senses to identify five things in the view, four things they can touch, three noises they can hear, two smells, scents, or aromas they can smell, and one taste. Again, the distraction helps.

Do not confuse hyperventilation with a panic attack. A paper bag to breathe in and out helps hyperventilation but is not effective in breathing control for a panic attack.

Helping someone who is having a panic attack can be stressful. It is important that a person is mindful of what actions could make a panic attack worse. Everyone responds differently. How you respond can affect the severity of their attack.

The causes of a panic attack vary. Genetics is one cause. Major stress is another. Extended chronic internal negativity over time can trigger panic attacks. Sometimes an internal fluctuation in brain operations can initiate a panic attack. If you do not know the cause, it is difficult to treat the resulting problem.

This article is for awareness and education about panic attacks and is not intended to represent medical advice.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –


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