How to deal with a panic attack as Kerry Katona says she's been left feeling like she 'can't breathe'

Kerry Katona has revealed she has been diagnosed with lymphoedema. (Getty Images)
Kerry Katona has revealed she has been diagnosed with lymphoedema. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Kerry Katona has revealed she has been experiencing panic attacks, which has left her struggling to breathe.

The former Atomic Kitten star, 43, shared that she has been battling the common mental health issue recently, but isn't sure what has caused it.

"I’ve not been feeling great this week," she wrote in her OK! magazine column. "I’ve been having a lot of panic attacks. I don’t know what’s going on. I’ve had them before but not like this.

"I feel like I can’t breathe and then I have this emotional breakdown," she added.

Read more: Prince Harry details 'terrifying' panic attacks: What to do if you suffer from them (Yahoo Life UK, 9-min read)

After seeking medical help, Katona shared that her doctor believes it could be "PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] related to something in my past".

While she credits CBD gummies and oil in helping her with the attacks, she also says she's going to be going to therapy.

"I’m a strong person, I’m not ashamed to ask for help," she adds. "No one should be and that’s why I’d rather speak out about it. I think we all forget to focus on ourselves sometimes and we really need to."

Prue Leith revealed she has suffered from severe stage fight and panic attack symptoms. (Getty Images)
Prue Leith revealed she has suffered from severe stage fight and panic attack symptoms. (Getty Images)

Katona's health reveal comes as Prue Leith recently admitted to experiencing severe stage fright.

The Great British Bake Off judge, 83, added that she “persuaded” her doctor to give her anti-anxiety medication in order to help her overcome the stage fright.

Read more: How to spot anxiety in your child – and how to help them (Yahoo Life UK, 6-min read)

Leith was given propranolol, a type of beta blocker to “calm my heart”. “The propranolol certainly helps. I’m still nervous, but not terrified,” she added.

Stage fright, often referred to as performance anxiety, is an acute anxiety that someone can experience before or during a performance in front of an audience.

It can be similar to a panic attack which can result in physical symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, shaking limbs, shortness of breath and feeling faint.

What do panic attacks feel like?

Mental health charity Mind says during a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up quickly and can include:

  • a pounding or racing heartbeat

  • feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed

  • feeling very hot or very cold

  • sweating, trembling or shaking

  • nausea (feeling sick)

  • pain in your chest or abdomen

  • struggling to breathe or feeling like you're choking

  • feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly

  • feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings, which are types of dissociation

mid adult woman experiences physical pain symptoms with hand on chest
A panic attack can sometimes results in a racing heartbeat. (Getty Images) (Catherine McQueen via Getty Images)

Why do you feel like you can’t breathe during a panic attack?

According to NHS Inform the physical symptoms of a panic attack are caused by your body going into “fight or flight” mode, which is the body’s natural response designed to protect us from danger.

"As your body tries to take in more oxygen, your breathing quickens. Your body also releases hormones, such as adrenaline, causing your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense up," the site explains.

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Some people think they’re having a heart attack because it feels like their heart is beating fast or irregularly, or even that they are going to die.

It is important to remember however, that panic attacks usually last somewhere from 5 to 20 minutes, so although it may feel like something is seriously wrong, they aren’t dangerous and shouldn’t harm you.

So while a panic or anxiety attack can be worrying, it’s just your body’s natural response to the situation.

Rest and Recovery After Exercise. Side View of Asian working women take a rest after outdoors workout in a city park.
Focusing on breathing can help when a panic attack hits. (Getty Images) (Nitat Termmee via Getty Images)

What is the best way to deal with acute anxiety and panic attacks?

According to Mind, if you experience anxiety and panic attacks, treatment can include the use of talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or applied relaxation therapy, medication, or self-help resources such as CBT apps designed to help treat panic and anxiety attacks.

Professor Paul Salkovskis from the University of Bath told the NHS that it’s best to "ride out the attack" and to "try to keep doing things".

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"If possible, it's important to try to remain in the situation until the anxiety has subsided," he added. "Confront your fear. If you don't run away from it, you're giving yourself a chance to discover that nothing's going to happen.

"If you’re having a short, sudden panic attack, it can be helpful to have someone with you, reassuring you that it will pass and the symptoms are nothing to worry about."

Watch: Kerry Washington used to suffer from panic attacks when her parents argued

He added that practicing breathing exercises can help to prepare you for a panic attack as you can train yourself to breathe more slowly when one does come on.

It’s best to breathe slowly in through your nose, and then out through your mouth. Count steadily from one to five as you breathe, and to close your eyes so your focus can be in breathing.

Help with panic attacks

If you are experiencing anxiety symptoms, you can consult your GP to discuss treatment options and support.

You can also contact the charity Mind for information about mental health support and services.