A Learned Ability
You can learn how to stop a panic attack, whether it is at the first sign of anxiety or after the attack has already started.
Common techniques used to stop panic attacks include rational thinking techniques, breathing exercises, and removing yourself from the stressful situation.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Also known as DBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy urges patients to learn how to stay in the moment and not allow faulty thought patterns to prompt a panic attack.
For example, a person on the verge of a panic attack might try to analyze what is actually causing the panic attack instead of allowing an emotional response to overtake rational thought. Instead of thinking, "I am having a panic attack because I am afraid I will have a heart attack from this anxiety," the person thinks, "I have had panic attacks before and have not died as a result, and therefore this panic is unfounded."
At the first sign of a panic attack, slow your breathing and concentrate on the flow of air in and out of your lungs. Panic attacks can cause physiological reactions that send the body into a state of alert which oftentimes includes rapid respiration. Slow your breathing down and your body may follow suit.
Create a phrase that you can repeat in your mind during the beginnings of a panic attack that will help assure you that you are fine and you can beat the attack. Your assurance phrase should not be something that makes you panic more, but instead should prompt you to calm down.
- Wrong: "Stop it now! Stop it now!"
- Right: "I am calm and comfortable."
How to Stop a Panic Attack
Know what prompts you into a panic attack and you will know what you need to remove yourself from at the first sign of an attack. For example, if social situations with strangers routinely set you into a panic, know that removing yourself from the immediate situation may stop your panic attack particularly when in conjunction with other techniques like breathing exercises.
If you experience panic attacks on a regular basis then there is a good chance that you can get help from a therapist or other professional who can individualize coping techniques for you. Psychotherapy, exposure therapy, and prescription medications are just a few of the possible solutions that may be discussed in a session with a therapist.
The right type of therapy can extinguish panic attacks permanently.