Panic attacks are defined as sudden episodes of intense fear accompanied by several physical symptoms. While many people get panic attacks, people with COPD seem to be especially prone to them.
Symptoms of panic attacks include:
- heart palpitations
- trembling or shaking
- severe shortness of breath and/or feelings of being smothered
- chest pain, tightness or discomfort
- fear of dying
- dizziness, lightheadedness
- numbness and tingling in the extremities
- hot flashes
Let's take a look at how you may be able to diffuse a panic attack when you feel one coming on:
1. Performing Breathing Exercises
- 1. While relaxing your shoulders, inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. When you inhale, your abdomen should expand outward and you should feel very little expansion of your chest. This is known as diaphragmatic breathing.
- 2. While keeping your jaw relaxed, purse your lips like you are going to blow out a candle. With pursed lips, breathe out slowly through your mouth. This is known as pursed-lip breathing.
- 3. Repeat this breathing exercise until you feel yourself becoming more calm.
Remember, in order to have better control over your breathing, it is important that you practice breathing exercises on a regular basis. Listed below are several techniques for you to choose from:
2. Utilizing Medication
Note: Although you may experience a worsening of breathlessness during a panic attack, the emergency use of bronchodilators, which may increase heart rate and intensify anxiety, are discouraged. Instead, try taking slow, deep breaths and be sure to practice the breathing techniques mentioned in the previous section several times a day.
3. Practicing Mindfulness Meditation
4. De-Stressing With Relaxation Techniques
5. Visualizing Your Way to Calm
6. Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
7. Stopping Your Negative Thoughts -- Literally
8. Enlisting the Help of Support Groups
9. Practicing Daily to Make Perfect
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Livermore N, Sharpe L, McKenzie D. Panic attacks and panic disorder in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a cognitive behavioral perspective. Respir Med. 2010 Sep;104(9):1246-53.
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