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How To Stop A Panic Attack...

Understanding how to stop a panic attack falls into two categories - 'myths' and 'what really works'. Unfortunately, much of what you hear about stopping panic attacks is based on well meaning but ultimately unhelpful advice. On this page we'll outline the reasons why so many 'well meaning' methods of stopping a panic attack fail and also discuss in detail the only reliable way to stop panic attacks for good.

If you're serious about recovery and are ready to help yourself get your life back on track, our page on Panic Attack Treatment will explain where to go from here. However, if you'd prefer to discuss your case in person with a Consultant you can contact us on 01782 855585, 11am to 9pm, seven days a week. We'll answer your questions, explain how we work and discuss your options free of charge and without obligation.



How To Stop A Panic Attack - Dismissing The Myths...

panic attack treatment

Myth 1 - Breathing into a paper bag will stop a panic attack. This myth is of particular concern as many of our clients inform us that their GP's give them this method as 'advice' for dealing with panic attacks. There is indeed an element of usefulness in breathing into a paper bag but it will NOT stop a panic attack. At best it will delay it... at worst it will make no difference whatsoever.

A common symptom of panic attacks is hyperventilation. This entails taking rapid shallow breaths which results in the sufferer feeling they are short of breath (suffocating) but in reality they are actually taking in too much oxygen.

The lungs need a certain amount of time to process a balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood which is kept in perfect ratio during normal breathing. However, during hyperventilation the carbon dioxide levels fall which means your body struggles to 'process' the incoming oxygen. This in turn causes you to feel like you're suffocating and hence breath faster to compensate.

The solution to hyperventilation (as a symptom) can be simply addressed by breathing into a paper bag. What happens is that each time you exhale the carbon dioxide level in the bag rises slightly - so each time you breathe in you are taking in a higher dose of carbon dioxide. This helps to regulate the hyperventilation.

However, this process of breathing into a paper bag does nothing more than regulate hyperventilation - it does NOT stop or prevent the panic attack permanently. What people tend to confuse is overcoming the feeling of suffocation as being the same thing as stopping a panic attack. Hyperventilation is just a single 'symptom' of a panic attack and trying to suppress that particular symptom in isolation does not affect or address the underlying cause which created the panic attack in the first instance.

This means that although the feeling of suffocation (and the associated fear) may have been dealt with, the panic attack could still continue or may be temporarily suppressed and return minutes or hours later. If breathing into a paper bag really stopped panic attacks - you would only need to do it once and you'd never have another panic attack. However, as we're sure you've already learned from experience, it doesn't work that way. The reason is simple - suppressing a single symptom (hyperventilation) has no effect whatsoever on the underlying cause which is repeatedly creating and driving panic attacks in your life.

For more information on how this works, have a look at our pages on: What Is A Panic Attack and What Causes Panic Attacks.


what is a panic attack

Myth 2 - Holding your breath will stop a panic attack. This myth again relates to hyperventilation and holding your breath has the same effect as breathing into a paper bag. Basically it gives your lungs longer to work with the oxygen / carbon dioxide ratio your body needs to function correctly. Unfortunately, this myth (as with myth 1 above) relies upon treating a symptom of the panic attack rather than the underlying cause. So effectively what will happen if you rely on these methods is that the panic attacks will keep on coming (because you never address the underlying cause) and when they arrive you'll be wasting your time trying to fix the symptoms over and over. Not much of a plan is it?


Myth 3 - Change your situation or surroundings. Typical well meaning examples here are 'leave the theatre when you start to feel uptight' or 'go to the kitchen and drink a glass of cold water' or 'switch on the TV or radio'. Essentially these methods rely purely on external distraction so as with the above examples they do not address the underlying cause of the panic attack. Rather, they attempt to suppress (put off) the panic attack by placing your attention on something else. Remember that 'distraction' has never fixed panic attacks as an ongoing problem... and never will.


Myth 4 - Keeping a journal will help. In truth keeping a panic attack journal is one of the worst things you can do in terms of recovery. The reason is simple... journals imply misleading information. What we mean by this is Jenny may have documented she had a panic attack in Morrisons. When she reads her journal back (potentially over and over) she begins to associate Morrisons with her panic attack. Thus she is likely to conclude that Morrisons somehow caused or triggered her panic attack and her solution for avoiding future attacks is to stay well clear of Morrison's.

In reality, this is not only speculative it is also very likely to be completely untrue. Once you understand what causes panic attacks you'll immediately realise that setting up any kind of avoidance strategy actually increases the likelihood of having another panic attack. Keeping a journal is like having a Bible of places, people and situations to avoid. Thus, the more you need to avoid the more narrow your options, the more narrow your options the more stress and anxiety you have, the more stress and anxiety you have the more panic attacks you'll suffer, the more panic attacks you suffer the more you write in your journal, the more you write in your journal the more places, people and situations you try to avoid... and the cycle continues.


what causes panic attacks

Myth 5 - Medication cures panic attacks. The belief that medication 'cures' panic attacks, anxiety or depression is one of the greatest 'lies for profit' perpetuated in recent times. If medication cured any of these things - why would you need to keep on taking it? The reason is simple, medication is never a cure for this sort of thing - it is only ever a symptom suppressant.

Sure you can feel better on medication for a short amount of time because in many cases it will suppress the worst of the symptoms and help you 'temporarily'. However, yet again we have a scenario where the underlying cause creating your panic attacks remains completely unaddressed. This means that in the background the cause is festering and growing whilst you blissfully pop the pills assuming everything is now OK. If this is your solution, panic attacks will inevitably come back to haunt you - and probably worse than before. You can't just sweep this stuff under the carpet and pretend it's not there.

We mentioned the 'lies for profit' line because the medical profession know that medication will NEVER fix your anxiety or panic attack problem. Once you go on the pills your GP and the pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs have a customer for life. They profit by maintaining your problem over the long term - why would they want to fix it and stop the money rolling in?


Myth 6 - Phone a friend. This myth also extends to being with a friend or someone you feel comfortable being around. The theory is that they can offer support, be understanding and make sure you remain safe. However, as with all the other myths this is just addressing the symptoms and making the best of an already bad situation. Once more, no attention is paid to what is repeatedly creating the panic attack situations and doing something constructive about rectifying it.

Reliance upon a friend can also actually create additional problems. For example, what if they go on holiday? All of a sudden, your panic attack safety net has been removed. This creates stress and anxiety, which in turn causes additional panic attacks. Another example could be that you'll only do certain things and go to certain places if they can be with you. In reality it's not always going to be feasible so on the occasions they can't be present you'll have additional stress and anxiety to contend with... leading to more panic attacks. A third example could be that you're feeling tense and on the verge of having a panic attack when you call your friend. However, their line is engaged or you get their voice mail. Is this really a long term solution or is it actually adding to the problem?

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How To Stop Panic Attacks - What Really Works...

panic attack help

In order to understand how to really stop panic attacks you first need to differentiate between what actually causes a panic attack rather than trying to continually escape the unpleasant symptoms.

In brief, panic attacks are basically an automated mechanism which vents excessive levels of stress and anxiety to protect your brain from overload and potential damage. Thus it would make sense that the only reason you suffer with panic attacks (over and over) is because you consistently have excessive levels of stress and anxiety in your life. If your focus is directed towards avoiding having further panic attacks by constantly side-stepping the symptoms - then your life will continue to be stressful and the panic attacks will keep coming.

However, if you could find a way to change the way you deal with situations and circumstances so you no longer generated excessive levels of stress and anxiety - there would be no requirement for panic attacks to be venting emotional pressure which isn't there. You see, by addressing the underlying cause of the panic attacks... they will simply cease on their own. This is fact born out by huge numbers of clients we have worked with in the past. It is very important to understand that panic attacks are not your enemy nor are they a sign of illness or malfunction. They ONLY occur to protect you from damage to the delicate neural pathways in your brain which can be caused by excessive anxiety and stress levels.

It is understandable why people become trapped in a cycle of anxiety through fear of subsequent panic attacks. However, in reality, this fear and anxiety contributes significantly to causing future panic attacks - not preventing them. Unfortunately we are not designed to 'think' our way out of fear or anxiety. On the contrary, we have a nasty habit, when dwelling on such things, of digging ourselves in deeper and making the emotional problem more significant. So, what can you do?

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How To Stop Your Panic Attacks For Good...

panic attack recovery

You have several options - but only one will lead to certain recovery.

Option 1. Do nothing, bury your head in the sand and hope for the best. This option will have the panic attack cycle increase in strength and frequency in no time. If you're in the early stages this option may seem feasible... but when your life starts to fall apart you'll realise it was never going to work long term.

Option 2. Use the myths to distract yourself and suppress the symptoms. This option is used by the vast majority of people at some time or other. Whether they try medication, blowing into a paper bag or keeping a journal - they're always hopeful the next 'well meaning' myth will be the silver bullet that fixes their panic attacks. When they realise one myth doesn't work, they trawl the internet for another solution... which inevitably ends the same way. The reason for repeated failure is simple - none of the myths address the underlying cause of the panic attacks, they just try to sweep the symptoms under the carpet through distraction or suppression. This option, although very popular will not bring you any long term results.

Option 3. Get specialised help and address the underlying cause of your panic attacks. This is the only feasible option that will result in 'recovery'. Rather than living the rest of your life in fear and then trying to juggle suppressing different symptoms, this option stops the panic attacks completely. No more panic attacks - no more living in fear - no more symptoms to suppress. For most people full recovery takes between six and eight hours of Consultation time spread over four to six weeks... with the majority having no further panic attacks after their second session. It is so impressively quick because the technology we use is leading edge whilst being simple to understand and use. Our clients are all ordinary people just like you, but they've got stuck in a tough place and need specialised help to get out.

The next question is - what are you going to do about your panic attacks? Which is your option of choice?

If you'd like further information, our Panic Attack Treatment page should be your next step.

If you're convinced now is the time to take action and get the specialised help you need - choose from the following:

I'm interested in a zero risk Face To Face Consultation at the Anxiety Clinic (Stoke on Trent)

I can't get to the Clinic in person so a zero risk Telephone / Online Consultation would be better for me (UK only)

Alternatively, if you'd like to speak to us in person, you can contact us on 01782 855585 from 11am to 9pm, seven days a week. We'll gladly go through your case, answer your questions and discuss your options free and without obligation.

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