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Quick: What do you do if a panic attack strikes?

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Panic attacks have been gaining attention with everyone from pro tennis players to a Stranger Things star speaking up about them. But what is a panic attack (and what is it not)? And what can you do if you or someone you care about has them?

Here are the facts about panic attacks, what causes them, and how treatment works.

What panic attacks are

A panic attack is a sudden wave of anxiety and fear. It can come out of nowhere, with no clear warning or trigger. On top of the emotional response, panic attacks can cause physical symptoms such as:

  • Pounding or racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Trembling
  • Trouble breathing
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Tingly or numb hands
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain or nausea

Panic attacks generally come on quickly, and last just a few minutes to an hour.

What panic attacks aren’t

Like many mental health issues, some people use the term “panic attack” loosely to describe any stressful experience. Yet everyday stress like finishing a project or running to catch a bus is typically not the same as a panic attack. A key feature of panic attacks is that they can happen when there’s no real danger or apparent cause.

What to do if you have a panic attack

Panic attacks aren’t life-threatening by themselves. Yet they can make you feel like you’re having a heart attack or dying. If you’re not sure, experts say it’s best to err on the side of caution and get medical help.

If you’re sure you aren’t having a heart attack, stay where you are. Try to slow your breathing and remind yourself that it will pass. Some people find it helps to focus on an object, a sound, or a scent.

When treatment can help

Many people have a panic attack just once or twice in their life. In those cases, there’s not much to do once the symptoms subside. If panic attacks become frequent, it can be panic disorder. Then a treatment like Freespira can help.

Freespira works by using a specialized system to teach patients a new way of breathing. Through twice-daily practice for 28 days, the breathing targets a physiological difference that may make some people prone to panic attacks. Research found that nearly 8 out of 10 people were panic attack-free after just one month of use.

What causes panic disorder?

Panic disorder seems to run in some families, though no one knows quite why. Some experts also believe there may be differences in the way people with panic attacks breathe. They may breathe in more air than their bodies need. This can cause low levels of carbon dioxide, the air that is exhaled, setting the stage for panic attacks.

The Freespira system measures the carbon dioxide patients breathe out during their treatment sessions. This allows the system to provide real-time feedback and coaching. Over time, healthier breathing patterns become automatic.

How panic attacks cause harm

While panic attacks aren’t inherently dangerous, they have profound impacts on the lives of those affected by them. Often, people with panic disorder are so afraid of having another panic attack that they begin changing their life and avoiding certain things they worry may cause an attack. This can make it difficult to do everyday things like work, study, travel, or get together with friends.

Sound familiar? If so, help with panic attacks may be closer than you think. Freespira is a medication-free option that can be done at home on your schedule. Schedule a call to find out more.

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