Saturday, 16 December 2017


LCDR Erika Stroem

Most people will suffer a panic attack of some sort, throughout their lives. They can be pretty mild or extremely severe. They may come on for no reason whatsoever, or could be bought on from a past
trauma and/or suffer with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

So what is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack makes you feel anxious and frightened. It happens suddenly and feels intense. You also have physical symptoms. These can include the following. (Please note, people have different variants of symptoms. Some will have few of the following whilst others could have them all.)
  • An overwhelming sense of dread or fear
  • Chest pain and/or a sensation that your heart is beating irregularly
  • Feeling that you might be dying or having a heart attack
  • Sweating and hot flushes or chills and shivering
  • A dry mouth, shortness of breath or choking sensation
  • Nausea, dizziness and feeling faint
  • Numbness, pins and needles or a tingling sensation in your fingers
  • A need to go to the toilet
  • A churning stomach
  • Ringing in your ears
  • An inexplicable and overwhelming urge that drives you to just run away.
Some people having panic attacks experience a sense of detachment from who they are. This is known as depersonalisation. It is thought that this may be the mind’s way of dealing with the intense sensations associated with panic attacks.
For some people, certain situations cause panic attacks. For example, if someone has a fear of small spaces and has to board a plane, they may have a panic attack then.
Panic attacks can be linked to variety of different anxiety disorders. Panic disorder is where you have regular panic attacks and there is no particular trigger. This can make you worry about when you might have another attack. If this happens, you may get a diagnosis of panic disorder.
If someone you know has a panic attack, he or she may become very anxious and not think clearly. You can help the person by doing the following:
  • Stay with the person and keep calm.
  • Offer medicine if the person usually takes it during an attack.
  • Try to persuade the person to a quieter place.
  • Don't make assumptions about what the person needs. Ask them.
  • Speak to the person in short, simple sentences.
  • Be predictable. Avoid surprises.
  • Help the person focus by asking him or her to repeat a simple, physically tiring task such as raising his or her arms over the head.
  • Help slow the person's breathing by breathing with him or her or by counting slowly to 10.
It is helpful when the person is experiencing a panic attack to say things such as:
  • "You can get through this."
  • "Good job, you’re doing well."
  • "Tell me what you need now."
  • "Concentrate on your breathing. Maybe try short breaths in and long breaths out."
  • "What you are feeling is scary. Just let them know you understand."
By following these simple guidelines, you can:
  • Reduce the amount of stress in this very stressful situation.
  • Prevent the situation from getting worse.
  • Help put some control in a confusing situation.
Things to remember
  • Allow the person to proceed in therapy at his or her own pace.
  • Be patient and praise all efforts toward recovery, even if the person is not meeting all of the goals.
  • Do not agree to help the person avoid things or situations that cause anxiety.
  • Do not panic when the person panics.
  • Remember that it is all right to be concerned and anxious yourself.
  • Accept the current situation, but know that it will not last forever.
  • Neither patronise nor show sympathy, just show that you are in control.
  • Remember to take care of yourself. As a person suffering the panic could get a bit wild and even though they would not mean it, they can lash out from time to time, as they are at a stage of fear.
So the pip-squeak who turns round and suggests that you "pull yourself together", really needs a kick up the rear end themselves and also needs educating on the fact that you have no, or very little control over a panic attack and if you could, (if you were more in a position to do so) you would grab them by the throat.
However, on the other end of the spectrum you can also get the person who means well, but is too concerned and they tend to smother you with kindness and say things like "Oh you poor thing" and "Oh let me give you a hug". These not only feel patronising but also makes you feel more restricted than you already are, and at the time, you really do mean it when you try and shout for them to "LEAVE YOU THE H*LL ALONE". (P.S. I have toned that last bit down, as it is an article after all.)
After the attack, so many people feel they have to apologies for their actions. They may not think of thanking because they are still confused and embarrassed. Just tell them it's okay … and move on. Hope you all find this helpful.

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