Updated: Aug 28, 2020
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is a thing your body does when it thinks there is an accident or emergency. It is the sudden release of adrenaline from 2 glands on top of your kidneys called the ADRENALS.
Adrenaline prepares your body for an ACCIDENT and EMERGENCY:
● Your heart pumps harder and faster
● You hyperventilate (breath deeper and faster)
● You start sweating
● Your big brain goes into emergency mode and you cannot think straight
You might also feel chest pain, tingling in your hands or feet, and feeling of dread.
This is called the FIGHT OR FLIGHT response.
This is all fine if you are being attacked by a bear or getting shot at. But otherwise it can be very frightening.
Why does it happen?
● It might happen for no apparent reason
● It might happen because you are thinking about something that scares you
● It might happen because you are generally overwhelmed, stressed out, or over-tired
● Drugs or alcohol can make it more likely
What keeps it going?
It is a very frightening experience and the fear you feel tells your big brain the *is* an emergency. This signals the adrenals to produce more adrenaline. This is the vicious cycle. WIth practice you can break the vicious cycle.
How can I prevent it from happening?
● Take care of your big brain health
○ Make sure you are getting enough sleep
○ Drink alcohol responsibly
○ Get regular exercise
○ Spend time around people who make you feel good
● Explore our strategies for stress management
What can I do when it happens
Remember: This is a thing your body is doing. It can’t hurt you.
If your big brain is in accident and emergency mode it will be difficult to think your way out of it. Have an automatic behaviour instead:
Take a deep breath.
Stand up straight.
Focus your attention on something *instead* of focusing on the fear. Try one of the following each time:
Focus on making your breathing regular (instead of deep and fast). Stay with this for a while until your body starts to calm down.
Focus on the sensation of your heartbeat. Keep your attention on it. With practice you can observe it slow down as your body goes back to normal.
Use any strategy that brings you out of your head and back into the room: like focusing on sensations like touch, or slowly walking around the room.
After it is over remember this: you got through it!
If the strategies above worked even a little bit you learned something about how to control your body’s accident and emergency response system. You will get better at this every time.
If panic attacks are happening very frequently you may need professional help. For more information, or if you think you may need medical help, visit the following site: