Panic Attack Signs - How to Identify an Attack Before It Erupts

Panic attack, that form of anxiety that seems to come all of a sudden without warning. You have trouble breathing, feel pain in your chest, and sweat pops out on your body. But possibly the worst symptom of a panic attack is the fear that engulfs you. Fear of something terrible happening. Maybe even fear of having a heart attack.

But there may be panic attack signs that come before the symptoms, and you may not be aware of them.

That was the focus of recent research at Southern Methodist University. Scientists and researchers have thought for some time that these precursors of panic attacks may be like the biological changes that come right before seizures and manic episodes.

Research focused on several physical processes and measured them in 43 people with panic attacks over a period of time. They measured heart rate, respiration, and skin conductance levels along with other processes.

The researchers found these physical measures changed from almost an hour before a panic attack to about 10 minutes after the panic began. These signs included hyperventilation (measured as breathing loudly and fast) without the people being aware they were doing so. Some other subtle signs like sweating, trembling, and having hot and cold flashes were also found.

These findings are important in that they may lead to ways of training people with panic attacks to notice them and thus provide possible ways to stop panic before it starts.

Some other possible signs of an impending panic attack include the feeling of “pins and needles” in your fingers and hands. This can be helped by immediately doing some deep breathing exercises.

The feeling of your heart racing for no reason may be an immediate sign of something that has triggered your anxiety. The trigger may be something you are not fully aware of, also.

What Can You Do?

If you are one of those fortunate individuals who recognizes the early signs of a panic attack, there are some things you can do immediately that may limit, or even stop, the panic attack.

First, deep breathing as mentioned above. Most people who experience panic breathe very shallowly. Learning how to breathe so that the oxygen gets down into the bottom of your lungs can help. Lie on your back with one hand on your stomach at the bottom of your breast bone. As you breathe in, try to make the hand rise and then fall as you exhale. Practice this over and over until it becomes automatic.

Learn deep muscle relaxation. Alternately tensing and relaxing the major muscle groups of your body is a good way to do this. Check the internet for good relaxation exercises.

Visualization of a place where you felt comfortable and safe is also useful. Combine this with the above two methods for really good relaxation.

The important thing is to find some of these exercises that help you relax and do them immediately when you realize a panic attack is coming. If you practice relaxing in between attacks, that will help you stay relaxed longer.


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Signs of Panic Attacks

Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder

Panic Attack Symptoms