Dealing with panic attacks can be absolutely terrifying for many people who have autism and many who don’t. In this article, we discuss seven ways to cope with and even stop them before they become worse.
IMPORTANT: Please note an important disclaimer at the end of this page.
As millions of people who suffer can agree, an attack like this can be a horrific experience, and very debilitating.
And as I have already indicated, this condition is common both among those who have autism and those who don’t.
One reason this condition can be so debilitating is that some sufferers can end up reluctant to leave their own homes or in extreme cases, even a specific room, such as a bedroom or even a bathroom.
If a panic attack happens in a certain location, the sufferer will often want to avoid that place. Soon they are afraid to go to certain places and they may begin self-limiting their own lives.
What is worse, even the fear of having a panic attack can bring another one on. Which is why sufferers would sometimes rather limit where they allow themselves to go out of fear of dealing with panic attacks.
This leads me to the next hallmark of this condition, which is extreme anxiety and fear.
No, let me make a correction—it’s probably more like absolute terror. Because the person having the attack often believes that the symptoms he is experiencing are caused by something serious such as a heart attack.
The fear of death causes more adrenaline to be released into the body and makes the panic attack worse. This creates a vicious cycle and it spirals downward into more panic.
Symptoms of a panic attack can include, but may not be limited to:
The physical symptoms of this condition are the body’s exaggerated symptoms of the normal body’s response to danger. The adrenaline rushes cause increased heart rate and hyperventilation, as well as other symptoms.
As challenging as dealing with panic attacks can be for both children with autism as well as their parents, there are seven things we can do to reduce and even eliminate panic attacks before they even happen.
Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help in dealing with panic attacks.
Some people find that caffeine can trigger a panic attack.
This may be because the sufferer might be afraid that the increased heart rate caused by the high levels of caffeine is yet another panic attack on its way. This fear of an oncoming panic attack can bring on a real panic attack. So avoiding foods with lots of caffeine is a good idea.
Exercise can help a lot too. The physical activity can be very good therapy for the anxiety that often leads to panic attacks.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works for many people in dealing with panic attacks. It helps by training the sufferer to realize that it’s not the places or events that are causing the attacks, but what he or she thinks about them.
It appears to be a program to change the person’s thoughts about their condition. And if you consider this perspective, the way we think about things changes almost everything in our lives.
It’s a fact that children and adults with autism have a lot more stress than normal. So I realize that asking you to lower their stress level may seem next to impossible.
But there may be some things you can do to relieve stress.
One important way I can think of is to try to maintain a calm, peaceful home.
Fighting and arguing can create a lot of stress for our kids, so if this is a problem, it may help to realize that we aren’t going to change anyone by quarreling.
Arguments are a truly futile, fruitless effort. It has been said that you can’t truly win an argument.
And also, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” —Origin Unknown
Ben Franklin, who became an expert in relating to people, found that he could win more influence and more people to his way of thinking by admitting he could be wrong and by becoming much less dogmatic when talking to people.
So to adopt Ben Franklin’s approach in today’s world, it might be helpful to admit you could be wrong, right up front. For example, instead of saying, “I know that…” or “It’s a fact…”, try saying, “It appears to me that…” or “It seems likely that…” or “What you’re saying could be true, I’ve been wrong many times.”
Admitting you could be wrong usually makes the other person more open to your point of view, and many times they too will want to admit that they could be wrong.
It’s helpful, even advisable, to admit you could be wrong, even if you are sure you are right. Continuing an argument by insisting you are correct simply isn't worth it. And it could lead to more arguments and in the end, more stress for everyone, including our kids.
It takes a good dose of humility to say that you could be wrong. I know there have been times that I discovered I was wrong when previously I had been thoroughly convinced I was right.
What is more, it takes two to argue. I realized one day that if I stopped arguing, there would be no argument.
My suspicions were correct. When I stopped quarreling, the quarreling stopped. And I found that I got along with my husband a lot better once I decided I wasn’t going to argue back.
If you want to learn more about how to deal with people effectively, I highly recommend the classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
I wish I had read it years ago. If I had, I would have experienced a much easier, less stressful life in relating to family, friends and acquaintances. And I truly believe my children would have experienced a lot less stress in their lives as a result.
On the next page, I offer more insight on dealing with panic attacks, including one solution that has worked wonders for us in stopping a panic attack cold. Nearly every time we have tried it.
Click on the next page to read more about reducing or eliminating these terrifying experiences in our children’s lives.
Additionally, here's more helpful information on dealing with panic attacks in an article by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article and on this website is not medical advice and should not be used as a substitute for seeing your own or your child’s physician. You should always consult a medical doctor before considering any of the information on this website. It is highly recommended to visit a licensed physician regularly and follow his or her treatment plan for your child. If you have any specific questions about your child’s health, you should see his or her physician or other healthcare provider. If your think your child might have any type of physical or medical condition, you should get help from your healthcare provider immediately. You should never delay, discontinue or disregard the medical treatment or advice from your own or your child’s doctor as a result of anything contained on this website.
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