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Panic attacks: symptoms and solutions

Coro star Helen Flanagan's brave admission that she suffers from panic attacks has helped raise awareness of the problem, which will affect as many as 10% of people at some stage in their life.
Having a panic attack can be very frightening and they may strike for no apparent reason. However, they're often a symptom of an anxiety disorder and are sometimes also linked to depression.
Signs you may be having a panic attack can include a pounding heart, racing pulse, excessive sweating, nausea, hyperventilating, dizziness, shaking and trembling, and a feeling of being detached from your body.
They're not the sort of thing you can just snap out of, but there are techniques for dealing with them and tricks that can help prevent them.
Eight ways of dealing with panic attacks
  1. one of the first signs you're having a panic attack is rapid and shallow breathing. Try to get it under control by breathing slowly in and out into a paper bag. This helps to restore normal breathing and prevents you from taking in too much oxygen, which can leave you feeling giddy.
  2. Don't try to battle a panic attack. This can send more adrenaline surging around your body, causing further problems. Just relax and accept the feelings of anxiety and let them pass. Imagine yourself floating away from your feelings and the panic will subside.
  3. Do something that takes your mind away from yourself when an attack strikes. Listen to music or do an activity you enjoy, such as gardening, while waiting for the panic to subside.
  4. Tell yourself the symptoms are purely the result of an over-sensitised nervous system and are not dangerous. They are temporary and will pass. This is not who you are, it's just something that happens to you sometimes.
  5. Learn a relaxation technique. Close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply and slowly. Become aware of areas of your body that feel particularly tense, such as your jaw or shoulders, and imagine the stress being lifted away. ooving upwards from your feet, relax each part of your body, thinking about feeling heavy and warm. Try to continue this until your symptoms have passed.
  6. Your lifestyle may play a part in panic attacks and simple changes can often make a difference. Exercising regularly can help to burn off excess adrenaline. Eating a sensible diet - avoiding sugary foods and drinks and processed products - will help to keep your blood-sugar levels stable. You should also cut down on cigarettes and alcohol, or give them up altogether.
  7. Don't bottle your emotions up inside. Take time to talk to someone about how you're feeling, whether it's a family member, a friend or maybe a professional counsellor.
  8. Try to reduce your exposure to unnecessary stress. If you can, avoid situations that can get you wound up, at least until you feel better able to cope with them.
other famous panic attack sufferersAnthony HopkinsAretha FranklinBarbra StreisandCherDavid BowieDonny osmondJoan RiversJohnny DeppLucille BallNaomi Campbelloprah WinfreyRebecca GibneyWinston Churchill
Health watch
  • Taking aspirin every day may cut the risk of getting cancer by as much as 60% if you have a family history of the disease. A major British study has found the painkiller, also recognised for its ability to prevent heart disease, more than halved the rates of cancer in people with a genetic fault that can lead to bowel cancer.

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