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Old 23rd April 2012, 06:50 PM   #1
Zeuzzz
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Science based advice for someone having a panick attack

Was in the company of someone who had a full blown panick attack the other day, and was very confused about what advice to give them.

Seem to remember studies saying that panick attacks rarely result in serious harm to normally cardiovascularly healthy individuals, and even more rarely result in a death; but when someone is clutching at their heart convinced they are dying of a heart attack with a BPM of over 180 its kind of hard to reassure them of this. I breifly tried, to no avail.

What would people here do in this position? Bearing in mind the person is a healthy individual in his mid twenties.

Eventually someone phoned an ambulance, and as soon as they were inside that they relaxed and were fine from then on.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 06:59 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Zeuzzz View Post
Was in the company of someone who had a full blown panick attack the other day, and was very confused about what advice to give them.

Seem to remember studies saying that panick attacks rarely result in serious harm to normally cardiovascularly healthy individuals, and even more rarely result in a death; but when someone is clutching at their heart convinced they are dying of a heart attack with a BPM of over 180 its kind of hard to reassure them of this. I breifly tried, to no avail.

What would people here do in this position? Bearing in mind the person is a healthy individual in his mid twenties.

Eventually someone phoned an ambulance, and as soon as they were inside that they relaxed and were fine from then on.
Thanks for posting this. I have actually experienced episodes like this, but all doctors do is prescribe medication, which helps but has side effects of its own. I would appreciate hearing of a more natural aid.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 07:23 PM   #3
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There is nothing you can say really. I am aware when I have a panic attack that my brain is falsely under the impression that a predator is chasing me and as a result it is producing chemical responses intended to make me run for my life, which leads to the illusion that I am dying, which makes my heart beat faster. It's a viscous cycle.

I've found recognizing when the sensation is about to happen is the most important thing to practice. You can interrupt this process through distraction. It's a self defeating cycle in that sense.

One of the things I've found that helped me immensely was watching youtube videos of other people talking about their panic attacks (while I was in the process of suffering a panic episode) while using abdominal breathing exercises.

I have so far managed to not call 911 despite the overwhelming urge to do so, and went from having multiple panic attacks a day to only a few in a year.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 08:06 PM   #4
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I found that focusing on an online metronome set to 60 bpm would eventually slow my racing heartbeat. http://www.metronomeonline.com/ .

It would take a few minutes of focus, but it usually helped my heart stop racing.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 10:40 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by JeanFromBNA View Post
I found that focusing on an online metronome set to 60 bpm would eventually slow my racing heartbeat. http://www.metronomeonline.com/ .

It would take a few minutes of focus, but it usually helped my heart stop racing.
Some method of breathing exercises, or something similar to the above would have been my answer to the OP. But I'm not a doctor.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 10:46 PM   #6
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Tell them to take fewer bong hits?
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Old 24th April 2012, 12:55 AM   #7
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There is plenty of advice on the internet such as this page http://www.emedicinehealth.com/panic...s/page6_em.htm
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Old 24th April 2012, 04:24 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by TheGoldcountry View Post
Thanks for posting this. I have actually experienced episodes like this, but all doctors do is prescribe medication, which helps but has side effects of its own. I would appreciate hearing of a more natural aid.
Not really, many doctors will also recommend the individual practice relaxation techniques and or get counseling. I rarely saw a doctor prescribe unless there was a reported history of repeated attacks.

Desensitization to a trigger can be very helpful.

While not perfect this is not bad either:
http://www.amazon.com/Anxiety-Phobia.../dp/157224223X
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Old 24th April 2012, 04:27 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by NewtonTrino View Post
Tell them to take fewer bong hits?
That is actually very true.
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Old 25th April 2012, 03:55 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Dancing David View Post
Not really, many doctors will also recommend the individual practice relaxation techniques and or get counseling. I rarely saw a doctor prescribe unless there was a reported history of repeated attacks.

Desensitization to a trigger can be very helpful.

While not perfect this is not bad either:
http://www.amazon.com/Anxiety-Phobia.../dp/157224223X
I believe you, but that's not my experience. I was prescribed medication such as atavin and lorazepam, which worked to settle my body down, but also caused sleep problems. Thanks for the link.

ETA: I'm an alcoholic, so my body chemistry is most likely different than others here.
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Old 25th April 2012, 03:57 AM   #11
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I don't think you need to worry about the advice being science based as such, they just need reassuring in whatever way works for them.

However if it is indeed bong related, tell them to man the f**k up and stop spoiling everyone else's buzz.
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Old 25th April 2012, 04:21 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by TheGoldcountry View Post
I believe you, but that's not my experience. I was prescribed medication such as atavin and lorazepam, which worked to settle my body down, but also caused sleep problems. Thanks for the link.

ETA: I'm an alcoholic, so my body chemistry is most likely different than others here.
Not after you are sober for thirty days.

Ativan is a bad drug, the sedation profile leads to addiction.
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Old 25th April 2012, 05:13 AM   #13
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He should have a cardiology check, just to make sure he doesn't have tachycardia
I've had it for over thirty years, but it wasn't diagnosed until a few years ago. ASn attack starts with my BPM suddenly shooting up to 180+ and staying there; it usually lasts for just a few minutes, but I've had attacks that lasted for over twelve hours. It's extremely frightening if you don't know what it is - your heart feels like it's trying to hammer its way out of your chest and you're certain you're going to die.
The first time I had an attack, I naturally went to my doctor. He checked me over,. reassured me there wasn't anything wrong and told me to treat any further attacks by breathing into a paper bag (I duly tried, but it didn't seem to work). He didn't actually tell me what it might have been; I only found out when I was diagnosed that he had written "panic attack" on my notes.

I have also had real panic attacks, and they are different.The fear comes first and it's overwhelming. Halfcentaur's advice is very sound - I followed similar advice and havn't had a panic attack in years.
However, panic attacks never sent my heart rate up anywhere near 180 BPM. So tell him to get checked out.
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Old 25th April 2012, 06:40 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by sophia8 View Post
He should have a cardiology check, just to make sure he doesn't have tachycardia
This is true, particularly as anxiety itself may be a precipitating cause for supraventricular tachycardias. I've experienced them myself.
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Old 25th April 2012, 06:54 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Dancing David View Post
Not after you are sober for thirty days.

Ativan is a bad drug, the sedation profile leads to addiction.
I only took it for a couple weeks, but I agree with you. I got horrible nightmares while I took it.
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Old 25th April 2012, 07:02 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by sophia8 View Post
He should have a cardiology check, just to make sure he doesn't have tachycardia
I've had it for over thirty years, but it wasn't diagnosed until a few years ago. ASn attack starts with my BPM suddenly shooting up to 180+ and staying there; it usually lasts for just a few minutes, but I've had attacks that lasted for over twelve hours. It's extremely frightening if you don't know what it is - your heart feels like it's trying to hammer its way out of your chest and you're certain you're going to die.
The first time I had an attack, I naturally went to my doctor. He checked me over,. reassured me there wasn't anything wrong and told me to treat any further attacks by breathing into a paper bag (I duly tried, but it didn't seem to work). He didn't actually tell me what it might have been; I only found out when I was diagnosed that he had written "panic attack" on my notes.

I have also had real panic attacks, and they are different.The fear comes first and it's overwhelming. Halfcentaur's advice is very sound - I followed similar advice and havn't had a panic attack in years.
However, panic attacks never sent my heart rate up anywhere near 180 BPM. So tell him to get checked out.
Sophia, are you referring to me? My heart is fine, luckily. I've wondered about that myself, but I've had multiple ECGS (I had one 3 mths ago because I had hernia surgery) and I've always been good. My problem is esophageal varices, because of alcohol abuse. That's why I have experience with anti- anxiety medication, but luckily it's been awhile.

If anybody out there is wondering, there was one night when I couldn't sleep, and I spent the entire night sweating in my underwear, with my heart pounding in my chest. Anybody who's been there knows what I'm talking about.
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Old 25th April 2012, 07:51 AM   #17
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Saw a doctor on TV science show once make a woman who was having a panic attack do jumping jacks. "If you are having a heart attack, could you do these?"

Still I'd wanna make sure she wasn't actually having a heart attack.
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Old 25th April 2012, 08:40 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Zeuzzz View Post
Was in the company of someone who had a full blown panick attack the other day, and was very confused about what advice to give them.

Seem to remember studies saying that panick attacks rarely result in serious harm to normally cardiovascularly healthy individuals, and even more rarely result in a death; but when someone is clutching at their heart convinced they are dying of a heart attack with a BPM of over 180 its kind of hard to reassure them of this. I breifly tried, to no avail.

What would people here do in this position? Bearing in mind the person is a healthy individual in his mid twenties.

Eventually someone phoned an ambulance, and as soon as they were inside that they relaxed and were fine from then on.
When I have mine, if possible due to place and circumstance, I close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing - in through the nose, out through the mouth, and I concentrate only on that simple task.
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Old 25th April 2012, 11:10 AM   #19
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I have severe asthma, and have had panic breathing, with a severe attack, which is pretty much the same thing! The first couple times, it scares the living Hell out of you. And the
more scared you become, the worse the attack is! I have learned to relax as much as possible, no matter how bad it is. Had a real bad one about two years ago and I drove myself to the doctors. They couldn't believe, I wasn't panic breathing. I told them, I was either gonna breath or die and that I was making myself stay calm, so go and get me some medication now.
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Old 25th April 2012, 12:10 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by TheGoldcountry View Post
Sophia, are you referring to me?
No, no - I was answering the OP and referring to his friend. If the attack came on abruptly and without warning, the heartrate went straight up to 180+ bpm, and it stopped just as abruptly, it could have been tachycardia.
I don't know if it's true for everybody, but for me the tachycardic heart rhythm is very distinctive; instead of the normal ONE-two-ONE-two, it goes BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM. Impossible to mistake for a normal fast-beating heart.
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Old 25th April 2012, 05:13 PM   #21
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Some other good tips are to write down what you are feeling and thinking while it happens. Also, holding an ice cube in one hand until it's unbearable and then switching hands.

Of course, if you feed into a panic attack with enough fear, you will be immobilized. The first time I had one I feinted, thinking I was having a heart attack at 24 years old. I have a great article someone sent me, but it's not able to be copy pasted as it's in a document format I cannot convert at the moment. I've listed some good tips from it though here.
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Old 25th April 2012, 07:08 PM   #22
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I'm still not sure I understand what a panic attack is. I mean, I've read wikipedia and the DSM and such, but it doesn't match up my experiences (I have been told I had had a panic attack by a school faculty member, but I wasn't experiencing fear or a fast heart rate or a feeling like I was in peril). I have had syncope preceded by a very fast heart rate, as I couldn't really distinguish between beats almost - it was like 3-4 a second, and have fainted while supine, but ECGs and an event monitor are normal.

The times when I have had classic panic attacks were when I went to hospital thinking I had something serious like congestive heart failure or a heart attack (due to having to sleep sitting up, shortness of breath and weakness moving short distances, difficulty swallowing, and chest/shoulder pain), which after several unnecessary emergency visits, I finally got diagnosed with GERD. I had heard descriptions of heartburn before, but never thought I had that because other people's descriptions sounded very different, and on the occasions where I got a bad taste in the back of my throat and stomach pain, I thought those were the only heartburn. Fortunately drug treatment has worked wonders and I rarely experience problems, except for when I get irrestibly sleepy after a meal and fall asleep instead of waiting four hours to lie down. It does provide extra impetus to exercise on a daily basis and avoid junk food for the most part, as I am slightly overweight, and while in my 20s I can figure that it's acid reflux, when I get into my 50s I can't be so sure.

Sometimes, however, I still panic when the more severe symptoms kick up again, so I focus on loosening up my muscles throughout my body, one area at a time and then checking that I'm not tensing up again, while reminding myself that every ECG has been normal, I'm young and not extremely sedentary or obese, I had a normal echo and event monitor, and that GERD has always been the cause of these symptoms in the past and likely is the cause this time too. I have some obsessive-compulsive tendencies that border on clinical OCD level, and have used similar strategies to remind myself that the chance of getting sick from, say fresh washed vegetables or a yogurt on the sell by date, are very remote, and identifying the faulty thinking which leads to overestimating risk to the detriment of quality of life, that this is due to unrealistic gut feelings about contamination. It's better to have a minimal-anxiety life and take the small risk of overlooking something bad happening than to carefully identify and prevent all risks to the extent humanly possible but worrying all the time and maybe getting struck down by an unforeseeable risk anyway. It's easier said than done at first, but with practice, it really helps to look at the thought patterns and weigh the risks and benefits and look at it as different paths you can choose to take (which adds to the feeling of being in control of one's life, even while accepting that you can't control everything).
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Old 25th April 2012, 09:27 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by sophia8 View Post
No, no - I was answering the OP and referring to his friend. If the attack came on abruptly and without warning, the heartrate went straight up to 180+ bpm, and it stopped just as abruptly, it could have been tachycardia.
I don't know if it's true for everybody, but for me the tachycardic heart rhythm is very distinctive; instead of the normal ONE-two-ONE-two, it goes BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM. Impossible to mistake for a normal fast-beating heart.
It's true for me, but overall my heart is ok. It's just been a couple times that I've had that "BOOM BOOM BOOM" like you describe.

ETA: I consider myself lucky. The few attacks I've had in my life are noteworthy and distinct. I can't imagine living that way on a regular basis.
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Last edited by TheGoldcountry; 25th April 2012 at 09:29 PM.
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Old 25th April 2012, 09:51 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Dancing David View Post
Not after you are sober for thirty days.

Ativan is a bad drug, the sedation profile leads to addiction.
Are you sure about the thirty days? I've read literature that suggests that once you cross a certain line (where that line lies nobody knows) your body doesn't go back.
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Old 26th April 2012, 03:02 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by TheGoldcountry View Post
It's true for me, but overall my heart is ok. It's just been a couple times that I've had that "BOOM BOOM BOOM" like you describe.

ETA: I consider myself lucky. The few attacks I've had in my life are noteworthy and distinct. I can't imagine living that way on a regular basis.
Eh, you get used to it. I've been prescribed beta-blockers for it but after trying out about six or seven different types, I decided I would rather live with the attacks than the drugs' side-effects.
I try to eliminate stress as much as possible, get regular meals, plenty of sleep, avoid too much caffeine and so on. I get one or two five-minute attacks a week on average. I can live with that.
(People tell me I am a very calm person. Hah - they don't see the frantic paddling underneath....)
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Old 26th April 2012, 03:49 AM   #26
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DON'T PANIC!



... Sorry.
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Old 26th April 2012, 04:03 AM   #27
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When i was a graduate student in a chemistry department, I suddenly started a series of panic attacks. I thought I was under unusual stress and anxiety at that time, although I had no reasons to think so. I did go see my doctor to make sure I wasn't about to drop dead. About a year later, I was at a research group meeting and heard that a guy directlly above my lab (We share the same ventillation system.) had used a particular compound in his research that is used in controlling some chicken disease and is known to cause panic attacks in people.

This information won't help a bystander what to do if someone is having a panic attack.....

H Mom
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Old 26th April 2012, 04:35 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by TheGoldcountry View Post
Are you sure about the thirty days? I've read literature that suggests that once you cross a certain line (where that line lies nobody knows) your body doesn't go back.
Um, not unless you toxify yourself or damage your nerves from lack of B-vitamin.

Now the issues as I see them revolve more around what got your there and what kept your there. I would want to see what that literature actually says as well.
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Old 26th April 2012, 07:41 AM   #29
uruk
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I used to suffer from panics attacks in my youth. My doctor told me that alot of the symptoms related to a panic attack are brought on by hyperventillation. (the feeling that you cannot get enough air, rapid heartbeat, the numbness of the lips and the tingeling in the hand and fingers.)

He suggested increasing my CO2 intake to lower the elevated oxygen levels in the blood stream. (i.e breathing into a paper bag)

It worked for me. Once I had the realization that the symptoms were cause by my rapid breathing started me on the path to thinking about the cause of the anxiety in a rational manner. After that my anxiety attacks subsided.

I haven't had one in years.
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Old 27th April 2012, 07:43 AM   #30
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I have chronic anxiety, which can escalate into full-blown panic attacks. What I've found works best for me is relaxation disorders combined with a mild anxiolytic (hydroxizine, which is also an antihistamine, so it helps with the allergies as well); and diazepam on-hand for the (fortunately rare) full-blown attacks.
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Old 27th April 2012, 09:17 AM   #31
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The only time I've experienced something of a panic attack was after taking two hits of some too-strong pot. I can't help but wonder if the person referred to in the o.p. was in a similar situation? Some folks simply shouldn't mess with the herb.
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Old 28th April 2012, 10:49 AM   #32
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I expect he had smoked cannabis but I was not sure, I expect a large portion of the people at the party were smoking it out in the garden, and he might have come in side after he smoked some. Didn't know him well so hard to tell.

So panic attacks are rarely need for panic ? Excuse the phrasing. Just reassurance needed till they calm down ? Just looked pretty bad.
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