Sudden episodes of intense fear or anxiety are called panic attacks. They tend to be short lived but severe and very frightening. Panic attacks can initially occur out of the blue and are then often associated with situations or circumstances that resemble those where the first panic attack took place.
Panic attack symptoms can include:
- A sudden and rising feeling or fear or distress
- Rapid breathing, leading to a feeling that you cannot breath properly
- Gasping for air
- Tight sensation in your chest/ chest pains
- Dizziness or feeling faint or shaky
- Confusion or panicked thoughts
- Pins and needles
- Feeling very hot or cold
- Fear that you are dying or losing control
Support for panic attacks
Panic attacks and other mental health problems are experienced in different ways by different people. What works for one person may not work for you, and vice versa. It’s important to listen to your instincts and follow what you feel will help you and make your personal situation better. Do not feel like you are beyond help if one avenue of support or treatment doesn’t work for you.
- Recognise it Panic attacks are very frightening but they are not dangerous. Realising you are having a panic attack, and that it will pass, can help control the attack and can calm you down.
- Breathe Breathing exercises can help. Learn about breathing techniques here.
- Talk it out Talking about how you feel often helps and can give you a sense of perspective. Try talking with a friend or family member. Talking therapies might also be of help – ask a G.P. about psychology and counselling in your local area. Find tips for starting the conversation.
- Mind yourself Go to the good mental health section for lots of practical tips on little things you can do to feel better. Things that might help include: relaxing; exercising; eating well; getting enough sleep; breathing exercises and avoiding too much alcohol or drugs.
- Find support If you have tried the above tips and they aren’t helping, visit a G.P. or a support organisation. Learn about how a G.P. can help or search for services and supports in your area.
- Get in touch with Oanda (the Out and About Association) Oanda is an anxiety resource centre set up to help anyone who is suffering from panic attacks, anxiety, social phobias or agoraphobia. They have offices in Dublin and Cork and run workshops in different locations around the country. Visit oandaireland.ie.
- Learn more about Social Anxiety Ireland This is a programme offered by the Adult Psychological Service within the Mater Hospital in Dublin. The group has an informative website about anxiety, treatment and the things you can do for yourself. Visit Social Anxiety Irelandcom.
- Check out self help books There are lots of self help books and CDs available to help people who experience anxiety or panic attacks. A G.P. may be able to recommend ones that suit your needs or check out the S.E.’s list of self help reading.