Among the mental health “hacks” that have gone viral online recently: dealing with anxiety attacks by sucking on sour candy or dunking your face in ice water. The idea is to distract yourself from panic symptoms by changing your focus. So, does it work?
It might seem to help people with moderate panic attacks. “By definition, panic attacks are time-limited,” says Freespira chief medical officer Dr. Bob Cuyler.
“No matter what you do, your panic attack is going to end in 10 to 20 minutes,” he says. “So, when it comes to sour candy, you don’t really know if the sour candy helped, because the attack would have let up anyway eventually.”
That said, distraction and a sense of control can take the edge off some panic. During a panic attack, people are often hyper aware of their bodily sensations. The feeling that your heart is racing, or your chest feels tight can be like “fuel on the fire” for panic, Cuyler says. Distracting the mind can help temporarily.
If shockingly cold water or a super sour taste can distract you enough to drown out those sensations, it is possible that they could keep a panic attack from snowballing. One limit, though, is that sour candy can become what experts call a “safety behavior”. And safety behaviors tend to grow over time.
With a safety behavior, your brain starts to think, “I can only be okay if I have my sour candy with me.” That may not seem like such a big deal. After all, how hard is it to keep some candy in your bag?
But consider if there are other rules your brain has already set for you. How do those affect your ability to live your life? For example, you might say, “I’ll just drive the long way to avoid the highway.” Or, “I just can’t get in an elevator with more than three people.”
Those “I can only be safe if X” rules limit the things you can and can’t do. They can also set you up for more severe panic if and when you have to break them. What if you run out of sour candy when you need it?
For people whose lives are limited by severe, frequent panic attacks, Cuyler says, neither candy or ice is likely to be enough. To help in the long term, you need a way to prevent attacks before they start.
That’s where an FDA-cleared treatment like Freespira is more effective. Freespira helps you build key skills that you can take with you to reduce or prevent panic attacks altogether. It’s a 28-day medication-free treatment. In one month, you learn to control your body’s breathing and responses, making panic attacks less frequent and making it easier to control symptoms.
Are you tired of having your life managed by a growing list of safety behaviors?
If so, Freespira may be the ticket to freedom that you’ve been looking for. Don’t settle for less. Schedule a consultation with a member of our team today to find out if Freespira could be right for you.
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