Un jeune tient dans sa main un miroir brisé dans lequel son reflet apparait

Anxiety is a common feeling that human beings experience on a daily basis. It can be adaptive and help to apprehend a situation. In the case of a panic attack, it becomes anxiogenic and disabling. Very frequent in the young population, how can we better understand and live with it?

What am I experiencing?

A panic attack is an episode of intense, unexpected and sudden anxiety. In a few minutes, several symptoms are set up and reach their paroxysm in the following ten minutes. It varies in its duration (10mn to several hours) and can take different forms.

At the physical level :

  • Acceleration of the heart rate which can lead to: sweating, chest and/or abdominal pain, nausea, hot flashes…
  • Respiratory difficulties leading to: tremors, a feeling of suffocation, dizziness, malaise, hyperventilation, muscle contracture…

At the psychic level: sensation of imminent death, loss of control, dissociation.
At the behavioral level: immobilization, desire to escape.

What can I do during a panic attack?

Reassure yourself. Knowing that you are suffering from a panic attack already allows you to understand that you will not die of a cardiac arrest, nor of suffocation. Even if the episode remains violent and brutal, you must keep in mind that it is temporary. You need to educate yourself and understand what you’re going through to better control it.
Relax. You need to be able to make allowances for yourself and listen to what makes you feel good. Now that we know we’re going to get through this, we can successfully try to de-center ourselves from feeling anxious. How can we do this?
Progressive relaxation, meditation, biofeedback: these are many methods that allow you to become aware of your body.
Recitation: use your automatisms! If you like a song or a poem, let your brain concentrate on what it knows.
Creation: writing, drawing… These things that make you feel good, that help you to externalize can also allow you to decentralize the feeling of anxiety and to calm it down.
Know yourself. Everyone has their own passions, feelings and therefore methods for getting better. Getting to know yourself takes time and energy. But once the knowledge is acquired, it stays.
Learn to let go. If the anxiety attack continues, we must accept that our body and mind react to what they have considered a threat, an anxiety. It is a difficult episode, it is temporary.

How to never have a panic attack again?

When panic attacks are recurrent, they can become very invasive in social or professional life. They often lead to low self-esteem and damage self-confidence. Often, the people around you do not understand the complicated experience and this can make you feel like a burden to others. Thus, one should not just try to stop the panic attacks, but to get better, to improve one’s quality of life in the long term. There are no miracle recipes, it is a matter of working on oneself.

Ask a professional for help. It can be complicated for the people around you to understand because they are not living it and are not trained to do so. A professional understands and can help you understand yourself better. If you really have a doubt about your health, you can go see a doctor who will remove the suspicion of a medical problem. And, the association Di Paradise offers free psychological help. Sharing and talking about what you are experiencing and feeling can help. Sometimes it is necessary to do further research. In no case is going to see a professional synonymous with weakness or madness. Stress and anxiety are emotions that are commonly felt by the population. For various reasons, they will grow and invade the mind.

Written by

Laure Raynal

Etudiante en 1ère année de master de psychologie à Paris VIII, je m'intéresse particulièrement aux problématiques centrées sur le stress et les psychotraumatismes. Pour moi, il est essentiel de croire en la capacité de chacun à s'épanouir.