Panic attacks can occur at virtually any age and they do not discriminate when it comes to gender, health or occasion. There are, however, a few things that tend to predispose people to getting them. They include genetics, certain brain abnormalities as it relates to the fight or flight response in the hypothalamus, specific medical conditions, substance abuse and major life stressors or life-altering events.

Panic attacks can occur at any moment and even when you might least expect it like when you’re feeling relaxed and experiencing enjoyment. They can be a one-time occurrence or happen repeatedly. Symptoms are wide-ranging and can include difficulty breathing due to shortness of breath or hyperventilating, heart palpitations, body shaking or trembling, nausea, light-headedness, a feeling of being removed from your surroundings, tightening of the throat, chills or hot flashes.

Having a thorough physical examination can help rule out any major medical issues and aid in further treatments/strategies to keep them under control. To start, remember that this is a common ailment affecting over 40 million Americans and is very treatable. There is a wide variety of therapy options so make sure you are comfortable with not only the type of treatment but the practitioner as well. If you do not feel like you are making progress or don’t connect with the provider, please do not give up. There are as many different pairings for both as there are people who seek treatment.

If you would like to try your own personal treatment, a fabulous place to start is with meditation. Mindfulness mediation along with relaxation exercises and deep breathing can be a huge benefit to helping the attack pass quickly. One simple plan when you feel a panic attack coming on is to try to relax yourself as much as possible through slow, deep breaths, repeating a mantra such as “I am safe and this will pass.” If you can, add some sort of movement such as walking, large stretching motions or flowing movement like Tai Chi incorporates. Movement, when accompanied by breath, along with mantra is beneficial in reducing hyperventilation as well as giving your mind a little bump forward to help it out of the spot in which it’s currently stuck. There are other alternative treatments like yoga and acupuncture that can also aid in reducing stress levels and help you manage negative energy.

Stress is an undeniable part of being human, but keeping on top of your anxiety through talking to a person you trust, joining a therapy group, journaling and taking good care of your health are all wonderful strategies to stay in charge of your symptoms.