Anxiety disorder is a whole spectrum of underlying conditions, the most common of which are generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and panic disorder. It is a mental health issue that is typified by feelings of fear and worry. Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by frequent sudden bouts of intense fear and distress. While these two seem similar in so many ways, they are distinct from one another. Knowing a few hacks on how to beat anxiety and panic attacks, or at least abate the effects when they do occur, is something handy for people battling these conditions.
Panic Attacks vs. Anxiety Attacks
One distinction between panic attacks and anxiety attacks is that anxiety is often triggered by a change in environment, while panic attacks are not triggered by anything at all. There is also a difference between the two in terms of severity. Read on to further understand how these two are not alike.
Anxiety Attack. Anxiety is the body’s natural response when it perceives something as threatening or nerve-wracking. Some examples of these stressful situations are taking an examination, going to a job interview, moving out of town, or mundane things such as crossing the street, answering the phone, or, for whatever reason, leaving the house. One characteristic of anxiety attacks is there is always something that prompts it before an episode happens. Once the person suffering from anxiety is pulled away from the stressor, then the episode also gradually declines. Panic attacks are also progressive in nature and may range from anywhere between mild to severe.
Panic Attack. On the other hand, panic attacks tend to occur more unexpectedly without anything cuing their onset. As described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, a panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort. This implies that a person suffering a panic attack may suddenly feel apprehensive or fearful for no reason at all. Frequently experiencing panic attacks could be a symptom of having panic disorder, or agoraphobia, which, again, is one type of anxiety disorder. In diagnosed cases, having a panic attack feels like a situation is totally out of control or is life-threatening. Because of this, people who have suffered panic attacks tend to evade places or situations that they fear might cause another episode. Others even experience what is referred to as an anticipatory anxiety, where a person, in the middle of an attack, starts to worry about having another one.
How to Beat Anxiety and Panic Attacks
As with any other mental health condition, there are ways to beat anxiety and panic attacks. These treatment options may be done with or without the aid of medical professionals. It must be noted, however, that even with the availability of medicines and self-help methods, it is still recommended to consult with a doctor before self-healing. Below are some of the options available to manage anxiety and panic attacks.
Medication. In moderate to severe cases, people suffering from anxiety disorder or panic disorder may be prescribed antidepressants (e.g., SSRIs or SNRIs) or anti-anxiety medicines. These medications help with the regulation of hormones, thereby regulating the mood of the patient and helping control feelings of anxiety or panic.
Psychological therapy. Another common treatment is psychotherapy. One of the most used therapies in managing anxiety and panic attacks is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. Taken from the name itself, CBT is applied by guiding a patient into processing thoughts correctly and behaving or reacting to triggers rationally. As anxiety is often a product of distorted beliefs about reality, CBT trains a person to distinguish what is realistic and what is irrational, and equips him with better coping strategies. Apart from CBT, another method used to treat anxiety and panic attacks is Panic-Focused Psychodynamic Psychotherapy or PFPP. This treatment process involves looking into possible underlying causes of a person’s emotional trauma and deciphering a person’s subconscious mind by digging into a person’s past experiences.
Self-therapy. Probably the cheapest intervention to beat anxiety and panic attacks is practicing self-help methods. These can be done at home and without assistance from anybody, and may applied upon the onset of symptoms. However, it also requires one to have knowledge of the techniques in order to practice them correctly. These are the techniques to manage anxiety and panic disorder are:
- Relaxation Techniques. Relaxation techniques that you can easily do at home are muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and aromatherapy. Muscle tension is associated with anxiety. This is why muscle relaxation helps improve one’s mood as tension is released. Meanwhile, guided imagery is a form of mental retreat that allows a person to focus on positive images to achieve a state of calm. Lastly, aromatherapy is a proven technique of using essential oils that help improve emotional and physical wellbeing.
- Breathing Techniques. Using breathing techniques is another holistic approach to overcoming anxiety and panic attacks. This is done by taking deep breaths, while consciously focusing on every inhale and exhale. Keeping one’s attention on his breathing will help take his mind off situations that make him feel anxious.
- Mindfulness Techniques. This is one technique that might be difficult to master as it requires focusing on and being mindful of the present. Being mindful means completely observing and not at all thinking of how to react.
People must remember that anxiety is not always caused by life problems. Most often than not, anxiety is caused by the way one looks at problems. This is why looking internally and addressing negative behavior and thinking are essential to recovering from these types of mental health issues. Whether one decides to seek help from a healthcare specialist or a therapist or not, one vital factor to being treated is helping oneself, having the resolve to overcome anxiety and panic attacks, and knowing that every episode shall pass.