My Anxiety Is Killing Me: Fixing Constant Panic Attacks

By Sarah Fader |Updated June 20, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

Many of us have experienced a spasm that causes our muscles to seize up. The body tenses and you might even cry from pain; but generally, everyone around you is sympathetic. They see you and know what you're going through. Panic attacks can be different. Not everyone understands them or has experienced them, and the reaction is often subjective. What triggers you may not trigger someone else. When you feel a panic attack coming on, there are a number of things that you can do to help mitigate it and regain a sense of peace in the moment.

A panic attack is an episode of intense fear accompanied by intense physical symptoms such as racing heart, chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, sweating or chills, and trembling or shaking. During a panic attack, it is common for individuals to experience a sense of impending doom, like they are losing control or even dying. The physical symptoms can be intense and mimic the experience of a medical emergency. Some individuals have gone to the emergency room while having a panic attack and when the nurse asked how they were feeling, reported that they must be having a heart attack. If you are having constant panic attacks, know that it’s normal to be feeling overwhelmed by what you are experiencing.

Panic Attacks are Hard on Your Mind. But You Don't Need to Let Anxiety Win!

If you are experiencing frequent panic attacks, it may indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder. One of the best things to do is to find a trained therapist who can help you to develop coping strategies and grounding methods for your specific situation. BetterHelp has many trained therapists for you to choose from. You can get support to manage your panic attacks with the help of a trained professional.

AWARE

The first part of coping with a panic attack is to be AWARE. It's happening. You know it's happening, but it's likely that you're not consciously focusing on the attack because your mind is in such excessive turmoil. AWARE stands for:

A - Accept/Acknowledge

W - Wait

A - Act

R - Repeat

E - End

Each step forces you to focus on something other than the chaotic thoughts zipping through your head. By accepting and acknowledging that the attack is happening, you are regaining control of your panicked mind. It's happening, so accept it and don't fight against it. Waiting before acting means not just acting for the sake of acting. It's allowing yourself time to formulate a successful plan before acting or reacting. Many calming methods require repetition to help ground you so that the panic attack can reach a stopping point and end. This repetition could involve tapping your fingers a certain number of times, or noticing ten things in the room that you’re in; anything to get your mind grounded again. Panic attacks all end whether you "help" them or not, but having coping methods make the experience a lot less likely to happen. It makes it easier when you don't try to prevent it or fight against it, as doing so can make them more intense.

Grounding

Grounding is an anxiety technique that forces your mind to focus on a repetitive task. My favorite is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. This uses the 5 senses and forces you to focus outside of your mind before repeating the action over and over until your brain gets distracted from whatever is causing the panic attack. There are many different grounding techniques that you may find beneficial when a panic attack hits.

Stop Reacting

The key to stopping a panic attack is not to let things escalate in the first place. It's likely that you know the telltale signs as they start creeping in, so you get more anxious as you notice these signs, which can serve to escalate the panic attack. As your adrenaline increases and you breathe faster, you're already in panic mode, making the attack much more likely. Find something to distract yourself until the panic has passed, like using the phone, petting your dog or cat if you have one, mental exercises like grounding or deep belly breathing, or going outside for fresh air.

Seek Help

Everyone deserves help and support. Reaching out for help through professional therapy can go a long way towards stopping constant panic attacks. Therapy can help equip you with tools to quiet your mind and thoughts so that you don't think as fast and can't build up to a panic attack as easily.

Some individuals seek help through therapy and other treatment options such as medication. For all guidance regarding treatment options, please consult a licensed medical professional.

Remember, you are never alone. Reach out for the help and support that you deserve, especially if you are experiencing anxiety so severe you wonder, can you die from anxiety? While you may feel as if your anxiety is slowly killing you, the truth is that anxiety is not actually harmful, though it can be very unpleasant and frightening.

Get Back In Control

When a panic attack hits, you may quickly start feeling out of control. A panic attack may feel like it comes out of nowhere. One of the major components of managing panic attacks is understanding that you do have a certain amount of power over them. You can choose to dwell on anxious thoughts, or you can let those thoughts pass harmlessly through your mind as you learn to stay centered and aware of your surroundings. You can even use the breathing techniques mentioned earlier to slow down your rapid breathing and fast heartbeat. A counselor can guide you through a variety of breathing techniques to find the one that works best for you.

Do Some Problem-Solving

Another way a therapist can treat your symptoms is by helping you examine the problems that are causing the anxiety in the first place. You can learn coping skills, of course, but you can also get to the root of the problem and work to eliminate or come to terms with the reason for your discomfort. For example, if you're in an unhealthy relationship, you can decide whether you want to continue it or not. Choosing to move on may be what you need to leave your anxiety behind. Even if you stay, considering the options and making a firm decision reminds you that you are in control, and can change your mind whenever you like.

Panic Attacks are Hard on Your Mind. But You Don't Need to Let Anxiety Win!

When Changes Don't Seem To Matter

Although making life changes can have a profound impact on the level of anxiety you experience, you may find that even major changes don't banish your fears. Your mind may be so accustomed to switching into anxiety mode that it goes there no matter what's going on in your life. Once you've examined your life and made significant changes, it's important to continue to meet with a counselor and keep working on your ways of thinking and dealing with stressors. No one is completely without stress, so you need to be prepared for challenging times, as they will inevitably come at some point.

Build A Support Network

Because so many people fail to grasp how hard it is to experience panic attacks, connecting with people who understand anxiety can provide an outlet for your feelings. Your therapist can be the center of this supportive network. They can also direct you to support groups for individuals who are living with anxiety disorders or other types of mental illness. You can also build your network by educating your friends and family members about what you are experiencing. Your counselor might send you educational links or help you learn how to explain anxiety to others in ways they can understand.

Take Care of Your Physical Health

Increasing your physical activities can sometimes help ease anxiety and panic attacks. Exercise can change your brain chemistry in a way that may relieve some of your symptoms. While panic attacks are generated in your brain, the combination of physical exercise and improved coping techniques can reduce your panic attacks dramatically. This avenue may not work for everyone, especially for those who are already involved in a fitness program. People who live a more sedentary life are likely to see the most significant results. If you're unsure whether to begin working out or get involved in a sport, talk to both your doctor and your counselor.

Other factors that can be helpful in reducing anxiety levels include following a nutritious diet and getting adequate sleep. Research has also determined that the decision to quit smoking can lead to a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms as well.

Practice Meditation

You would understandably have a hard time shifting into a deep meditative state from a bout of extreme anxiety. The key to using meditation for panic attacks is to practice it when you aren’t in the middle of one. As you meditate, you let go of anxious thoughts. It takes practice, and your therapist or meditation coach may have to go through the process with you, step by step, many times before you begin to see results. The important thing to remember is that everything you can do to decrease your overall level of anxiety can also work to decrease the intensity of panic attacks when they do come.

Finding A Therapist You Can Trust

Trust is an important factor when it comes to choosing a therapist, particularly if you struggle with anxiety daily. Start by finding out about the counselor's training, certification, and experience. Sometimes, even a photo of them can set you at ease by giving you a glimpse at who they are. To really know if the counselor is right for you, though, you need to begin therapy and find out for yourself. Once you establish a trusting counselor/client relationship, the work of overcoming panic attacks becomes much easier.

Establishing Trust With BetterHelp

Recent research has pointed to internet-based counseling as a flexible, efficient, and useful alternative to traditional face-to-face therapy. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry looked at the effectiveness of online therapy when addressing panic disorder and related issues. Specifically, the study examined the effects of internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help those living with anxiety to develop coping strategies. Participants reported significant decreases in the severity of anxiety symptoms, with 77% of patients no longer experiencing panic disorder at a nine-month follow-up.

As outlined above, online therapy can be highly beneficial for those experiencing anxiety and/or panic attacks. Anxiety can make it difficult to see a therapist face-to-face, and having to sit in traffic to get to an appointment can make seeing a licensed therapist even harder. This is where online therapy comes in. BetterHelp's platform is completely anonymous and can be accessed from the comfort and privacy of your own home (or wherever you have an internet connection). Their network of licensed therapists have years of experience helping people develop coping tools for their anxiety. Below, you may read some BetterHelp counselor reviews, from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"After working with Debra for just a couple of months, I have seen my anxiety drastically reduce. I learned a tremendous amount from her about how to manage and effectively cope with anxiety and trauma. I have seen great results when putting these new things into practice. She is very patient, kind, and understanding. I found it easy to open up to her. She is also very good about checking in and making sure I am on track to becoming a better version of myself."

"I want to say a Big Thank You to betterhelp.com for assigning Noami Kim to me...I don't know if I'd have gotten a better session like hers. My 2 weeks alone with her has recorded some noticeable progress on coping with my frequent panic attacks/disorder. My experience so far with her has been very relaxing and conversational even when at times it was difficult for me to express myself. I feel very positive that'll come out better and more focused in fighting this PAD. Thank You Noami Kim"

Moving On To Self-Trust

A facet of the anxiety that is often experienced during a panic attack is a distrust of your own body and mind. In the midst of having one, some people don’t believe that they can make it through the panic attack. When you find a therapist you trust, you'll hopefully feel comfortable following their lead as they teach you coping skills and grounding techniques. Once you've mastered those, you'll likely feel a great deal more confidence in yourself and your ability to manage panic. This not only helps you lessen the severity of your panic attacks in the long run, but it has other benefits as well. You can become more self-accepting, self-confident, and more in tune with the world around you.

Will The Anxiety Ever Go Away?

People with panic attacks may struggle with this question: will anxiety ever go away? Anxiety might disappear for the most part. Yet, even if it doesn't completely vanish, you will have learned techniques to manage your anxiety during your counseling. You'll have the strong support you can rely on during your most difficult times. The good news is that even if anxiety and panic attacks seem a staple of your life, you can find a measure of relief.

Why Wait?

Until you learn how to manage your panic attacks, anxiety can make you feel immobilized. Yet, at any time, you can break free and make a new choice. Take the simple step of starting therapy, and your counselor will help you do the rest.

Helpful mental health resources delivered to your inbox
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.