“Panic attacks after coronavirus — how to deal with them?”

“I didn’t dare to write for a long time. But I understand that this problem concerns not only me. After I got over Covid-19, it looks like I had panic attacks. But I’m not sure. How to recognize a panic attack, and how to deal with it?”

Reader marieclaire.ru , 36

Specialist’s response:

Have you ever felt a lack of air to the extent that you are suffocating and can’t take another breath? Or dizziness, tremor, palpitations, chest tightness and heart pain? Or maybe you once felt the fear of death, so strong that you can’t do anything with yourself, and sticky cold sweat trickling down your back and armpits, further aggravating this condition?  

It may also seem to you that you are somewhere in another reality, about to go crazy or lose consciousness. Together or separately, all these are symptoms of a panic attack. It is important to be able to recognize it in order to quickly help yourself or the person next to you. What is the nature of the occurrence of panic attacks? 

The most obvious reason is stress, to which the body reacts in this way. Moreover, this stress can be both acute and background, “thanks” to which you imperceptibly find yourself in a state of depression and complete nervous exhaustion. Then a factor that you would not normally pay attention to can become the trigger. 

In addition, the causes of panic attacks can be quite specific pathologies, for example, arrhythmia, hypertension, ischemia and other cardiovascular diseases, disorders of the respiratory, endocrine systems and pathology of the central nervous system. Also, a panic attack can develop as a side effect of some medications. Therefore, if you are taking some medicine, carefully study the likely side effects and be on the alert, and if you do not take anything, but panic attacks happen regularly, we strongly recommend that you consult a doctor to find out the cause specifically for you and prescribe the appropriate treatment. Another reason, completely unobvious, may be excessive physical activity, for example, during fitness classes.

What to do during a panic attack? The most important thing is to understand that this serious condition will soon pass, and you just need to wait it out. Psychotherapists say that no one has died from a panic attack yet, and this is true. Remember this phrase and just watch yourself, your pulse, breathing, tight palms, realizing — yes, this is how adrenaline works, it will soon run out. 

The thing is that a panic attack is triggered by the evolutionary mechanism of “fight or flight”, in fact, it is the same reaction of the body to danger. A powerful release of adrenaline activates the sympathetic nervous system: blood flows to the internal organs, blood pressure rises, hyperventilation begins. Don’t try to fight this reaction. It is impossible to remove adrenaline from the blood by willpower. Just remind yourself that you understand what is happening to you, and that everything will pass soon. 

It is not the best option to google symptoms in a panic, call relatives, friends and an ambulance, endlessly measure pulse and blood pressure, frantically search for and take some medications, trying to suppress the attack. This recommendation applies both to the patient himself and to those who are nearby. This fuss only provokes the body to release even more adrenaline. 

To end the attack faster, try to regain your breath. The exhalation should be longer than the inhale. You can breathe in a craft bag – surely you’ve seen this in movies. This is necessary to slightly reduce the level of oxygen in the blood, which goes through the roof during a panic attack. 

Switching attention, which will require muscle work, will also help well. For example, if an attack caught you in a public place, try to clench and unclench your fists, rub your earlobes. And if you are at home, do any banal household business. Drink a couple of sips of water, this should also help. 

Try different ways, combine them to choose the one that suits you the most. And remember that if panic attacks are repeated, the body needs to be examined, and the condition must be corrected with the participation of a specialist.

About the expert:

«Панические атаки после коронавируса — как с ними бороться?»

Natalia Zubareva

Doctor of preventive and anti-aging medicine, practicing physician, author of a series of bestsellers, scientific editor of foreign literature of the AST publishing house.

www.labirint.ru/authors/194870/

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