Anxiety Attack Relief: 4 Methods To Cope With An Anxiety Attack

Updated August 19, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

We all encounter situations in our lives that concern or worry us. This is a natural part of navigating life. However, when this worry seems to overcome us and causes mental distress as well as physical symptoms, we may be dealing with anxiety instead. One issue that people with anxiety and related disorders may have is anxiety attacks. If you believe that you are dealing with symptoms of anxiety and anxiety attacks, you don’t have to let them take over. To help you experience anxiety attack relief, here are 4 methods to help you cope with an anxiety attack and take back your peace of mind.

Anxiety Attacks Don't Have To Stop You From Enjoying Your Life

What Are Anxiety Attacks?

Defining and understanding what you are dealing with is the first step in the recovery process. For many, the wrong terminology can make it hard for them to find out more about what you are going through. For example, while many believe they may be experiencing an anxiety attack, they actually have a panic attack. Anxiety attacks and panic attacks are both terms that are used to describe the same thing. Whether you choose to call it an anxiety attack or a panic attack, however, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of an attack when it strikes. Panic attacks can have alarming symptoms, including physical sensations that mimic a heart attack, so it’s important to recognize the signs.

Symptoms Of Panic Attacks

A panic attack is described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) as an “abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort,” which may often be experienced for no reason at all or may be triggered by overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Symptoms of panic attacks include:

  • An overwhelming feeling of dread and impending doom
  • Fear of losing control
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid breathing or feeling like you are out of breath or choking
  • Intense shaking and trembling
  • Racing heartbeat (which, for many, can often feel like a heart attack)
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands and other areas of the body
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle tension
  • Feeling weak, fatigued, or dizzy
  • Stomach pain and nausea

Another important thing to point out when talking about panic attacks is that they are often part of panic disorder. Panic disorder is characterized by sudden and recurring panic attacks that greatly impact an individual’s ability to function in their daily life. When someone has a panic disorder, experiencing panic attacks is a part of the disorder.

Meanwhile, those who have an anxiety disorder, whether that is a generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or separation anxiety disorder, may not necessarily experience panic attacks as a result of their disorder. That said, you can still experience panic attacks if you have an anxiety disorder. However, the panic symptoms that you may experience along the way can differ from those who strictly have panic disorder.

Symptoms of an anxiety disorder like generalized anxiety disorder, for example, include:

  • Excessive worry in almost all aspects of daily life
  • Difficulty controlling your feelings of worry or nervousness
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Issues maintaining focus and concentration
  • Feeling fatigued more often than not.
  • Being easily startled by things
  • Difficulty getting enough sleep, whether that means having trouble falling asleep or trouble to stay asleep
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Experiencing trembling or twitching throughout the body
  • Feeling unexplained aches and pains throughout the body.
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy frequently.
  • Feeling out-of-breath
  • Frequent restroom visits
  • Difficulty swallowing

Whether you have panic attacks as part of a panic disorder or experiencing attacks along with an anxiety disorder, figuring out what you can do to manage anxiety attacks is the next step to take. Fortunately, we have compiled a list of some ways you can reduce the overall impact of your anxiety.

4 Methods To Cope With An Anxiety Attack

Panic attacks can be distressing for the individual experiencing them. However, you don’t have to let your anxiety attacks run your life. To better cope with anxiety attacks when they come, here are 4 coping methods that can help you work through them and experience some anxiety attack relief.

  1. Engage In Deep Breathing Exercises

Because panic attacks have an impact on both the mind and the body, finding exercises that soothe both when we are experiencing intense fear is key to getting over anxiety attacks faster. One of the best relaxation techniques is a deep breathing exercise that will help you to calm your racing heartbeat, release tension, and focus on something other than your fear. A systematic review of the benefits of deep breathing exercises suggested that they can promote relaxation and decrease anxiety and arousal. Here are a few steps for a simple deep breathing exercise that can work for you.

  • Sit or stand, with your feet apart about hip-width apart.
  • Take a deep, slow breath through your nose, feeling it as it goes into your body and fills it up. You can make this easier by doing it to a rhythm, such as counting to 5 or 10 slowly.
  • Once you are no longer able to take in any more air, begin releasing the air through your mouth to the same rhythm.
  • Engage in this exercise for around 3 to 5 minutes or until you feel like you are more relaxed.

These kinds of exercises, which can be done anywhere, are a great tool to help you work through an anxiety attack when you experience one. Remember, you are in control.

  1. Take Time To Stop and Challenge Your Thoughts

A panic attack can put us in a bit of a frenzy. After all, your body is experiencing a host of mental and physical symptoms that are putting you in an extreme state of fear. The problem for many is that they instantly react to these symptoms, which will only reinforce the idea that you need to panic and can make panic attacks worse. Rather than working with your symptoms, try to challenge them when they show themselves. For example, the next time you experience a panic attack, take time to:

  • Stop and acknowledge that you are experiencing the symptoms of a panic attack.
  • Take some time to look around you and assess the situation. Is there anything around you that could be thought of as a potential and immediate danger? Is there any reason that you should be anxious at this point in time? Are your panic attack symptoms justifiable? Chances are that you are not in any immediate danger. Realizing this can help you to ground yourself, securely process your emotions, and overcome your anxiety attack faster.
  • Take some time to engage in exercises that help calm your symptoms of anxiety and bring you back to a calm state.

It will take some time to learn how to challenge anxiety and work through it. However, once you learn how to recognize the physical and emotional symptoms of panic attacks that you experience, you will be better suited to tackle anxiety attacks when they appear.

  1. Distract Yourself From Your Symptoms

Anxiety attacks, no matter how long you have dealt with them, can still be quite impactful at the moment. When it comes to panic attacks that are having a severe effect on you, you may not always have time to engage in an exercise or stop your thoughts. Instead, you can use methods to distract yourself from your symptoms until you have calmed down enough to engage in a calming exercise.

This can be accomplished by listening to a song, playing a game where you look for different objects around you that really pull your attention, or even pretending that you are somewhere else. As long as the activity is enough to pull you away from the symptoms that you are dealing with, even momentarily, it can help you return to a more relaxed state.

  1. If You Have The Opportunity, Try Meditation When Anxiety Strikes

Deep breathing exercises are often ideal because they can be done anywhere. However, meditation can also be a great way to help you ground yourself and allow your thoughts to pass without holding onto them. Peer-reviewed studies show that meditation can reduce anxiety and help manage symptoms of other mental health conditions. Meditation can be done without any support, but you can also find plenty of resources online that can guide you through a meditation and help you begin. If this is something that you may be interested in, both inside or outside of anxiety attack, you can get started by:

  • Getting into a relaxed position and taking some deep breaths.
  • Closing your eyes and focusing on your breath and your body.
  • Letting your thoughts pass without focusing on them or letting them take you away from the focus on your body.
  • Maintaining this focus for as long as you want, whether that be 5 to 10 minutes or longer.

Once you begin meditating regularly, it can become easier to do overtime.

Getting Support For Your Anxiety Disorder

Panic disorder and other anxiety disorders can be difficult to overcome on their own, especially if they require certain medications or if you have just developed a disorder. While the tips above are great to use, they may not replace therapy. Common medication for anxiety disorders are selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and medications in the benzodiazepine drug class. Your healthcare provider may try more than one medication in order to find the one that best treats your systems. In addition to medication that a doctor prescribes, getting support from a therapist can help you receive a diagnosis for your anxiety, get the proper treatment, and learn how to cope with it better.

The information found in the articleis nota substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Often used as recreational drugs, benzodiazepines are highly addictive (so much so that the FDA recently updated their boxed warning on the medications to ensure they’re used safely) and can lead to substance abuse and physical dependence, so consulting with your primary care provider or another healthcare professional before starting or stopping a medication is crucial.

For more information on panic attacks and panic disorders, take a look at the National Institute of Mental Health’s guide, “Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms.”

One way to seek help is to look for counseling resources near you. Anxiety disorders are rather common, which means that there will most likely be a support group near you or a therapist who can give you the support you need. However, if this may not be a possibility for you, there are alternatives. One great resource to turn to is BetterHelp.

BetterHelp is an online counseling platform for those who want more convenient and affordable counseling. If you are living with panic attacks or other symptoms of a panic disorder, you can reach out to a certified mental healthcare professional on BetterHelp when it works best for you. If traditional counseling isn’t an option for you at the moment, BetterHelp is there when you need it. BetterHelp has a team of mental wellness professionals who know how to work with you to treat anxiety. A licensed mental healthcare professional can help you cope with and even prevent panic attacks.

Having an anxiety disorder and anxiety attacks can be debilitating for some and concern for others. No matter the severity of your anxiety, you can learn how to manage anxiety attacks to lessen their impact. If you’re looking for anxiety attack relief, use the 4 coping methods listed above and reach out for help today.

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