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Panic Attacks: Learn How to Stop Them

written by: kmjones • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 7/24/2010

A panic attack can be a terrifying experience which often occurs without any warning. These techniques can help you to take control of your panic attacks and learn how to stop them for good.

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    Learn the Facts

    Panic attack symptoms can be so overwhelming that it feels like something much more serious is about to happen. The first step in overcoming a panic attack is to learn these simple facts:

    • A panic attack cannot cause a heart attack or heart failure
    • A panic attack cannot cause a person to stop breathing
    • A panic attack cannot cause a person to faint
    • A panic attack cannot cause a person to lose control or go crazy.

    Thinking about these facts can be a great way to calm down during an attack.

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    Panic Attacks: How to Stop them with Controlled Breathing

    Another method to calm the body down during a panic attack is to practice controlled breathing. The first part of this is to learn how to stop chest breathing and learn to breathe from the abdomen. Research has shown that taking six abdominal breaths per minute can stop panic attacks from happening. Secondly, controlled breathing will prevent hyperventilation and this will lower the body's adrenaline level and promote a sense of calm.

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    How to Stop Panic Attacks by Keeping a Record

    Another technique in learning how to stop panic attacks is to keep a diary or journal. Making a note of when anxiety strikes and when an attack occurs can help to identify potential panic attack triggers. Understanding what triggers an attack is an important step in taking control of panic attacks.

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    Exercise and Relaxation Techniques

    Learning how to relax is important to relieve the stress and tension which can lead to having an attack. Massage, meditation and yoga are popular relaxation techniques which can decrease overall levels of stress and promote positive mental wellbeing.

    Taking regular exercise is another way of learning to how to stop panic attacks. Exercise boosts serotonin levels in the body which is proven to enhance mood and increase a person's general wellbeing.

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    Eat Well

    Making simple dietary changes can also help to stop panic attacks. Aim to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, drink lots of water and cut down on sugary foods and snacks. Try to reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol too, as they have been shown to contribute to panic attacks.

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    Therapy

    Therapy is one of the most effective ways of stopping panic attacks. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a great tool for teaching management strategies and overcoming negative thought patterns. Other suggestions include counselling or joining a self-help group.

    Remember that keeping thoughts and feelings bottled up will exacerbate the panic attacks and make the overall situation far worse.

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    Medication

    It may be time to introduce medication if panic attacks are becoming a serious problem and impacting on everyday life. Drugs are proven to be an effective method in managing panic attacks but can have some side effects.

    Some of the most common drugs include:

    • Tricyclic antidepressants
    • Monoamine Oxydase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
    • Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).