Under Pressure: Why It’s Time To Talk About Panic Attacks

52% of us will have a panic attack at some point in our lives [Photo: gratisography.com via Pexels]

Earlier this week Selena Gomez announced she is going to be taking time out from her showbiz career to focus on her health. The 24-year-old has been battling panic attacks and anxiety since being diagnosed with Lupus in 2014.

“I’ve discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges,” the singer said in a statement. "I want to be proactive and focus on maintaining my health and happiness and have decided that the best way forward is to take some time off. Thank you to all my fans for your support. You know how special you are to me, but I need to face this head on to ensure I am doing everything possible to be my best.“

Selena isn’t the only high profile celebrity to speak out about their battle with panic attacks. In a recent interview singer Ellie Goulding said cognitive behavioural therapy helped her learn to cope with her "debilitating” panic attacks.

"I was skeptical at first because I’d never had therapy, but not being able to leave the house was so debilitating. And this was when my career was really taking off,” she told Flare magazine.

“My surroundings would trigger a panic attack, so I couldn’t go to the studio unless I was lying down in the car with a pillow over my face. I used to beat myself up about it,” she continued.

Selena Gomez is taking time off to deal with her panic attacks [Photo: Getty]

Earlier this year Zayn Malik was forced to pull out of a longstanding appearance at the Summertime Ball due to crippling anxiety, while songstress Adele has also spoken out about her panic attack battle. “I have anxiety attacks, constant panicking on stage, my heart feels like it’s going to explode because I never feel like I’m going to deliver, ever,” she said. And YouTube Vlogger Zoella bravely filmed herself mid-panic attack in a bid to raise awareness of the issue and make other panic attack sufferers feel less alone.

Because despite making some strides in the attempt to bring mental health issues to the forefront, there is still a shroud of secrecy surrounding panic attacks. Yet according to recent research by bcalm 14% of people suffer from a panic attack each month, while 52% of us will have at least one panic attack in our lifetime (that’s more than 46 million panic attacks happening in the UK every year, or 120,000 panic attacks per day).

So what exactly are panic attacks? The NHS defines a panic attack as “a rush of intense anxiety and physical symptoms”, which can include nausea, what feels like an irregular or racing heartbeat, and trembling. 

“Panic attacks can be a scary experience, particularly if you’ve never had one before or if you don’t know what’s happening,” explains Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind. “They often occur when you’re feeling anxious, and are typically an exaggeration of the body’s normal response to fear. Typically a surge in adrenalin can result in physical symptoms like rapid breathing, chest pains and sweating. People can feel very panicked and unwell, and even as though the world is about to end or they are going to die. No matter how dreadful they seem, they’re usually over in a matter of minutes, and are surprisingly common.”

[Photo: unsplash.com via Pexels]

What do you do if you start having panic attacks? “Things like regular exercise, healthy diet and relaxation and breathing techniques can all help prevent panic attacks,” says Stephen. “If you do experience a panic attack, try to stay calm and regulate your breathing. Lots of people find it helpful to move to a quiet space or get outside, if possible. If panic attacks are becoming more regular, lasting longer, or generally impacting on your day-to-day life, it’s worth visiting your GP. Speaking about mental health can be a difficult thing to do, but Mind’s ‘Find the Words’ guide has lots of tips and advice to help prepare you for your appointment.”

A recent survey by panic attack inhaler manufacturer bcalm revealed that 53% of panic attack sufferers felt that hearing a well-known personality talking about their condition had helped them, so Selena’s decision to speak out about her panic attack battle will hopefully help fellow sufferers feel like they’re not alone.

“Thank you to all my fans for your support,” she finished her statement. “You know how special you are to me, but I need to face this head on to ensure I am doing everything possible to be my best. I know I am not alone by sharing this, I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues.”

Get well soon Selena.

[Photo: unsplash.com via Pexels]

Panic Attacks: The Facts

What is a panic attack?

  • An exaggeration of the body’s normal response to fear
  • Adrenalin floods the body very suddenly
  • Most last between 5 and 20 minutes
  • 1 in 3 people can expect to have one at some stage

Symptoms can include…

  • Feeling that the world is going to end, you may die or you are going “mad”
  • Very rapid breathing/unable to breathe
  • Pains in chest
  • Faintness/dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Feelings of terror
  • Feelings of unreality, called depersonalisation – feeling detached from your body and surroundings

How to help yourself during an attack

  • However dreadful you feel, try to remember that you are not going to die and the world is not going to end – the bodily effects are just part of the panic
  • Rapid, shallow breathing can make the problem worse – breathe with a brown paper bag over your mouth and nose (or use cupped hands) until you feel better
  • Don’t breathe in too deeply, try to keep breathing regular and normal
  • If you feel an attack coming on, try to focus on the positive aspects of your life or distract yourself with a pleasurable task
  • Accept and face your feelings during an attack and they will become less intense – don’t fight them
  • Run on the spot
  • If you feel “unreal”, keep a photo of a loved one or a heavily textured object (e.g. a strip of sandpaper) to anchor you in reality

Top tips to prevent panic attacks

  • Reduce your exposure to unnecessary stress
  • Exercise regularly, eat well, avoid alcohol and cigarettes
  • Don’t bottle up emotions – find  someone to confide in
  • Learn to breathe from your diaphragm. With hands on stomach, slowly breathe in through your nose while counting to four. Your stomach should rise (not your chest). Breathe out, to a count of four, and your stomach should collapse. Repeat four times.
  • Learn a relaxation technique. First close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. Locate any areas of tension and imagine the tension disappearing. Then, relax each part of the body, bit by bit, from the feet upwards. Think of warmth and heaviness. After 20 minutes, take some deep breaths and stretch.

If you are having them regularly

  • Call the Mind infoline – 0300 123 3393

Speak to your GP about potential treatments – talking therapies, behaviour therapy or alternative therapies. Antidepressants are generally not recommended, associated with less good outcome

Do you suffer from panic attacks? Let us know @YahooStyleUK

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