Anxiety attacks can be quite incapacitating. They can leave you unable to do your day-to-day activities at work, school, or home. Because of this people suffering from anxiety always seek methods for the prevention of anxiety attacks, panic attacks, and anxiety disorders.
The available methodologies for preventing anxiety attacks can not prevent the anxiety attacks and panic attacks completely.
However, the methodologies available can prevent most of the symptoms of an anxiety attack. This is while also helping you to live a life with minimal fear.
In most attacks, it is important to understand your situation. This can be done by exploring the symptoms and discussing them with a doctor.
Some of the symptoms of an anxiety attack especially a panic attack can be confused with a heart attack. It is important to discuss the situation with your doctor to diagnose what is ailing you.
- 1 What is the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack?
- 2 Causes of anxiety/ panic attacks
- 3 The 10 ways for prevention of anxiety and panic attacks
- 3.1 1. Recognize and accept that you are having an anxiety attack or panic attack
- 3.2 2. Practice deep breathing
- 3.3 3. Mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation techniques
- 3.4 4. Nutrition
- 3.5 5. Do not smoke or take illicit substances
- 3.6 6. Manage stress/mindset
- 3.7 7. Take care of your body
- 3.8 8. Managing your job schedule, tasks, and engagement
- 3.9 9. Connect with family, friends, or other people who suffer from anxiety
- 3.10 10. Take fast-acting medication for anxiety such as benzodiazepines
- 4 When to seek help and anxiety treatment
- 5 The bottom line
What is the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack?
In real-life situations, people use the names panic attacks and anxiety attacks interchangeably. Even though the two are related, the two have clinical differences, intensities, and duration.
The differences between a panic attack and an anxiety attack include:
- Intensity: Panic attacks present themselves in a more extreme and intense fashion as compared to anxiety attacks. This means that panic attacks symptoms are disruptive with a feeling of one not being in control of their bodies (detached) and unreal. Anxiety attacks symptoms range from mild to severe.
- The trigger: Panic attacks mostly do not have a trigger, but anxiety attacks do. Anxiety attacks appear because of a threatening or stressful situation.
- Duration: The duration of anxiety attacks is normally longer than that of panic attacks. The symptoms of anxiety attacks last for a long period while panic attacks symptoms diminish in a few minutes.
- Appearance timelines: Finally, panic attacks appear suddenly with no warnings while anxiety attacks appear more gradually. Anxiety attacks grow in intensity as time passes by. Sometimes anxiety symptoms peak in days.
Causes of anxiety/ panic attacks
It is not clear why anxiety attacks happen according to current research. However, some of the probable causes and risk factors include:
- Genetics: A person whose close family members have suffered an anxiety disorder is more likely to suffer the same anxiety disorder or a different one.
- Medical conditions: Some diseases predispose one to get anxiety attacks or disorders. These medical conditions include depression, cancer, HIV/AIDS, heart attack among others
- Use of medications: Some medications can trigger anxiety attacks through their mode of action, side effects, or adverse reaction. These drugs include decongestants, weight loss medications, birth control drugs, stimulants, and corticosteroids among others.
- Substance abuse or withdrawal: The use of illicit drugs and other substances can cause panic attacks. Such substances include cocaine, marijuana, excess alcohol, and stimulants among others.
- Brain chemistry: Alteration of brain structure, chemicals or function can cause anxiety attacks. This is either through prolonged exposure to stress, trauma, medications, and brain conditions.
- Temperamental factors: Some people have intrinsic factors that can make them easily susceptible to anxiety attacks. These temperamental factors may include negative affect, shyness, social isolation, and behavioral inhibition among others.
- Environmental factors: The environment that we live in can have some factors that trigger anxiety. The factors include conflict in the family, stress at school or work, financial stress, and visiting an area with low oxygen levels among others.
Even though a panic attack is so sudden, there are several ways to try and stop or prevent a panic attack or an anxiety attack from happening.
The 10 ways for prevention of anxiety and panic attacks
1. Recognize and accept that you are having an anxiety attack or panic attack
Panic attacks and anxiety attacks are temporary. As discussed above panic attacks only last for a few minutes and are a bit more intense as compared to milder anxiety attacks.
Recognizing that you are having a panic or anxiety attack and not a heart attack will go a long way in resolving the matter. This is because it eliminates the fear that you are going to die from a heart attack.
This also helps you to follow the other 9 ways for the prevention of anxiety and panic attacks.
2. Practice deep breathing
Hyperventilation in itself is a symptom of panic or anxiety attacks. You will hear someone panting when they get an attack.
However, deep breathing enables you to have control of your breathing and thus minimizing the symptoms of the attack. Breathing control prevents the fear and worry that can add to the fear.
It is important to focus on the flow of air through your mouth to the lungs. The concentration on the airflow helps to keep your mind away from the anxiety.
In addition, you should breathe in deeply, count to four, and then breathe out followed by counting to four.
3. Mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation techniques
This means having a moment-by-moment consciousness of our thoughts, feelings, and environment by accepting and living at peace with everything. This is done to prevent the feeling of not being in your own body or feeling unreal that are associated with panic attacks.
In mindfulness, you focus on the real things surrounding you. For example, you can use your feet to play with the soil while focusing wholly on it. You can also for example focus on the texture of your clothing or hair
Focusing on such things will help you to stay away from the harmful thoughts of fear, nervousness, and worry thus stopping impending anxiety or panic attack.
Other relaxation techniques that are important in preventing anxiety disorders include progressive muscle relaxation, massage, and listening to calming music among others. For massage, which is one of the best relaxation techniques, you can get one of the best massagers for anxiety.
In life, people claim that ‘you are what you eat’. You can use nutrition and diet in the prevention of anxiety attacks.
It is important to always eat a balanced diet. This enables your body to have the right balance of nutrients for energy, bodybuilding, body repair, and other functions.
It has been shown that hypoglycemia can cause anxiety attacks in some people. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts among other foods are important in body rejuvenation.
Stay away from foods that are not tolerated well by your body. As you are taking a balanced meal make sure you do not take foods that can cause allergies, acid reflux, or do not generally agree with you. This is because any reaction from these foods can lead to anxiety.
As one of the possible causes of anxiety, minimize the intake of alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants. Caffeine and stimulants excite the brain thus leading to more anxiety symptoms.
Alcohol, on the other hand, seems to make you calm but on the other hand, reduces the emotional balance. Alcohol may also alter sleeping patterns or interfere with medications increasing anxiety.
5. Do not smoke or take illicit substances
Smoking and some illicit substances like cocaine excite the brain. This reduces the brain chemistry balance causing anxiety.
Some other illicit stimulants like amphetamines, ephedrine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine also can cause an increase in anxiety symptoms in generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and panic disorder among other disorders.
Also, withdrawal from taking illicit substances can lead to anxiety attacks. Therefore, it is important to avoid illicit substances altogether.
6. Manage stress/mindset
One of the main triggers of anxiety/panic attacks is stress. Knowing how to manage stress can go a long way in the prevention of anxiety attacks and panic attacks.
Stress can come from several situations. To know the stressors, kindly note any situation that precedes an anxiety attack. That way you can identify patterns and handle the stressors positively.
Too many responsibilities can lead to stress. Therefore, it is important to take note of all of them and delegate what can be delegated.
Thoughts can be a source of stress. Negative thoughts can be avoided by trying to take control of your thoughts. The thoughts can be managed by cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and learning from others. To get insight from others you can refer to books on anxiety.
7. Take care of your body
Taking care of the physical being will help in preventing anxiety attacks and panic attacks. This can be done in several ways including exercise, sleeping well every night, yoga, and tai chi among others.
Exercises help to increase endorphins in our system. Endorphins help in blood circulation which in most cases helps to improve moods. It is therefore important to engage in light exercises when we know situations that can cause anxiety. Light exercises like walking, swimming, and aerobics help to improve moods.
Intense exercises can help when hyperventilation is regulated. Intense exercises include jogging, lifting weights, and boxing among others.
It would be good to focus on 2.5 hours of light exercise per week or 1.25 hours of intense exercise per week.
Sleeping for a minimum of 8 hours every night is important in preventing anxiety. Passing through all the stages of sleep can help in rejuvenation and control of brain chemicals. In addition, it prevents you from being drowsy/ sleepy the next day which can be a trigger for anxiety.
Yoga and tai chi help to ensure balanced breathing, meditation and thus preventing anxiety.
8. Managing your job schedule, tasks, and engagement
One of the main probable causes of anxiety in people is activities that are carried out at work or even losing the job. This is because a job is where we spend at least a third of an adult’s daily life.
As one of the patients stated, “one of the most traumatizing situations in life is losing your job when you have so many needs, wants, and dependents. It ranks at the same level as losing a loved one or divorce.”
Managing your job will go a long way in the prevention of anxiety attacks. This can be managed by proper time management, making sure each task is completed carefully, and not committing to a task or tasks that you cannot handle.
It is also important to save when you are working or at least have a contingency plan for when you will lose your job. Losing a job can cause stress, anxiety, and depression.
9. Connect with family, friends, or other people who suffer from anxiety
One of the main reasons for repeated anxiety attacks or fear accompanying a panic attack is being lonely or isolated. Talking to other people helps to loosen you a bit thus helping in sharing the workload of stressors and anxiety.
When things seem to be tough, meet up with friends, family, or other anxiety sufferers, and share the worries with them. You will find it easy to handle the situation if people around you understand the situation or help you to adapt.
You can also start new friendships if you feel like you do not have dependable ones. The process of making new friends and getting to share with them is also therapeutic.
10. Take fast-acting medication for anxiety such as benzodiazepines
There are some fast-acting medications for anxiety attacks and panic attacks. These medications work on reducing the symptoms of an anxiety attack when it starts to happen. These medications include benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, and GABA. Benzodiazepines work the fastest among the medication.
It would be good also to combine the medication with lavender and chamomile tea, or other anxiety supplements. The two are soothing, calming, and stress-relievers.
Lavender is also available as lavender essential oil which can be smelled to reduce the anxiety attack symptoms if it starts for people with frequent attacks.
When to seek help and anxiety treatment
The methods listed above for the prevention of anxiety attacks are very effective. However, sometimes the anxiety attacks or panic attacks can become regular, extreme, or can disrupt the daily routine. In those instances, professional help is required.
The doctor can access the anxiety disorder and check if there are any other underlying causes. The underlying causes may include:
- Thyroid conditions
- Effects or side effects of medication and supplements
- Use of illicit substances
If the doctor analyzes the situation and there is no underlying cause, it is time to see an anxiety disorder specialist. The specialist can recommend one or a combination of the following treatment options:
- Medications: There are several medications that can be used to treat anxiety attacks, panic attacks, and anxiety disorders in general. They include benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, GABA, SSRIs, SNRIs, and buspirone among others.
- Psychotherapy: This is also called talk therapy. It is a very effective method to identify triggers and treat anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven to be quite effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
Transdiagnostic treatment of emotional disorders is a form of CBT that helps to manage several emotional disorders. Examples of transdiagnostic treatments include the unified protocol, cognitive therapy, MATCH, and CETA among others.
It is important to learn about the prevention of anxiety attacks to improve your quality of life if you suffer from anxiety attacks or panic attacks. Having a plan on ensuring that this happens is very important.
For people with a mantra like “Anxiety is temporary,” it is good to ensure you repeat and mean the words. It is also important to know when to seek medical help. This helps in ensuring you do not become overwhelmed by your anxiety.