First Aid in a Panic Attack


Panic attacks are episodes with sudden and large escalation of psychogenic physical manifestations and excessive worry about these symptoms, which emerge with little or no warning. They often occur in calm conditions, such as when you lie on your couch, and sometimes ignite for a specific reason, such as the thought that because we are in an elevator you may be in danger. Intense physical manifestations in a panic attack, such as tachycardia, shortness of breath or choking and dizziness are then misunderstood as imminent fainting, confusion, blurring and more and lead a person with a crisis to the fear that he may lose his life. or loose his sanity for good.

They usually afflict people who are already anxious and are already experiencing some psychosomatic discomfort. Fear of the next crisis predisposes to avoiding the condition in which such a crisis has occurred in the past or other similar conditions, for example all enclosed spaces, public transport, staying home without the company of someone else. etc. When this happens to us and we begin adjusting our lives accordingly, to avoid the panic attacks, or when such episodes become recuring without us believing that we can actually control them, then we can be diagnosed with the Panic Attack Disorder that requires specialized help.

Fear of the next crisis predisposes to avoiding the conditions in which it originally manifested

There is, however, first aid for these panic attacks that can alleviate the symptoms if properly applied. Their common denominator of the first aid measures is to recover our self-control, for example on our breathing and our attention.

1. Remember that it will pass

During a panic attack, confidence in the thought that these symptoms will pass and that they do not really threaten our survival or our sanity – no matter how frightening they are at the time – can really help.

2. Take deep breaths

Diaphragmatic breathing is proven to help in controlling a panic attack.

Panic attacks can cause shortness of breath and tightness to the chest that further aggravates the feeling of anxiety.

Inhale “through the abdomen” for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then exhale slowly and steadily for another 8 seconds.

3. Method 5-4-3-2-1

Regain self-control starting with your five senses.

Observe 5 separate objects. Think about each one for a moment, e.g. Its shape and color.

Listen to 4 separate sounds. For example a siren, a pacing.

Feel 3 different objects. For example, touch the texture and feel the temperature of the seat you are in, your clothes, etc.

Smell 2 different scents in the environment or keep with you a vial of soothing essential oils such as lavender and bergamot and bring it close to your nose.

Recall the taste of a food, or try a candy with a strong taste like cinnamon.

4. Repeat a phrase in your internal dialog

For example, a message to yourself, such as “I’m not really in danger.”

5. Walk or do light exercise

Walking as well as regular exercise can relieve stress, serving the need to regain our self-control on our body.

6. Try muscle relaxation techniques

We suggest progressive muscle relaxation, where we tighten and then relax all the muscle groups in our body one by one.

7. Imagine your happy place

Our happy place can be a specific beach where we felt great peace and calmness during the summer. Recall this place in as much detail as you can.

Δημήτρης Παπαδημητριάδης

Σπούδασε Ιατρική στο Πανεπιστήμιο Κρήτης και Διεθνή Πολιτική Υγείας στο London School of Economics (LSE). Εξειδικεύτηκε στην Ψυχιατρική και στην Ψυχοθεραπεία στο Λονδίνο (Royal Free Hospital & UCL School of Medicine, Halliwick Personality Disorder Service) και στην Αθήνα (Ερευνητικό Πανεπιστημιακό Ινστιτούτο Ψυχικής Υγιεινής, Περιφ. Γενικό Νοσοκομείο “Ευαγγελισμός”).Συμμετείχε στο πρόγραμμα Γνωσιακής Θεραπείας για τις Διαταραχές Άγχους του Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy που ίδρυσε στη Φιλαδέλφεια των ΗΠΑ ο θεμελιωτής της γνωσιακής θεραπείας Dr. Aaron T. Beck.Έχει βραβευτεί για δραστηριότητές του με ειδικά τιμητικά διπλώματα από το Πανεπιστήμιο Κρήτης, την Επιστημονική Εταιρεία Γενικής Ιατρικής, την Πανελλήνια Ομοσπονδία Μη-Κυβερνητικών Οργανώσεων, την Οργανωτική Επιτροπή Ολυμπιακών Αγώνων 2004 και με το Βραβείο “Κοινωνία των Πολιτών” των Δημοσιογράφων της Ελληνικής Ραδιοφωνίας (ΕΡΑ).Διετέλεσε Γενικός Γραμματέας στο διοικητικό συμβούλιο της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης Φοιτητών Ιατρικής (EMSA) με έδρα τις Βρυξέλλες και Πρόεδρος της Επιστημονικής Εταιρείας Φοιτητών Ιατρικής Ελλάδας (ΕΕΦΙΕ).Σήμερα εργάζεται ως ιδιώτης ψυχίατρoς – ψυχοθεραπευτής και συμμετέχει σε δράσεις ακτιβισμού για την προστασία των δικαιωμάτων του ανθρώπου. Λαμβάνει μέρος σε επιστημονικά συνέδρια και ημερίδες και παραχωρεί ομιλίες για την ενημέρωση σε ζητήματα ψυχικής υγείας, όλο το χρόνο, με έμφαση στην καταπολέμηση του στίγματος.

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