Panic Attacks:  Seven Ways to Reduce or Eliminate Them

Panic attacks are a horrific, terrifying experience for some children with autism as well as for some people who don’t have autism. Here we continue our discussion of this debilitating condition, including one solution that works for us in stopping them. Almost every time.

If you haven’t read the first half of this article, click here to read it from the beginning.

IMPORTANT:  Please note an important disclaimer at the end of this page.

On the previous page, we talked about diet and exercise, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and lowering stress as effective ways to reduce or eliminate the likelihood of panic attacks. Here, we continue with four more ways to deal with this challenging condition, including a solution that works almost miraculously for us.

4.  Here's a Solution That Has Worked Wonders For Us

While I can’t promise that this will work for everyone, I can say that nearly every time we do this, the panic attack simply melts away.

We noticed that when the sufferer in our family is feeling a panic attack rising, the fear kicks in and he starts hyperventilating.

Now, the problem with hyperventilation is that his body is trying desperately to get more oxygen. But the fact is, when he is hyperventilating, those quick breaths actually decrease the amount of oxygen his body is receiving.

That decreased oxygen supply will cause the adrenaline to increase as his body becomes more and more desperate for oxygen. Soon the sufferer is in a downward spiral, headed for a panic attack.

The solution is this:  Encourage your child to breathe in slowly and deeply. If she can possibly have the presence of mind to do so, have her breathe in slowly and deeply through her nose and then exhale slowly through her mouth. 

Jumping Dad with daughterHere's another tip: Distracting your child with another activity or a discussion about her favorite subject might reduce or eliminate the effects of an attack.

As I often tell the sufferer of panic attacks in our home, “Remember to breathe!”  And I encourage him to breathe slowly and deeply. 

So far, this has worked to slow down and even stop the panic attack just about every time.

I can’t guarantee it will work for everyone, but I think the science behind this idea is solid, and I encourage you to try it if you or someone you love suffers from this debilitating condition.

It might also help to open a nearby window so he or she can get some fresh air and more oxygen.

When the panic attacks start up in our family, the sufferer also usually fears he is going to die.

It’s really helpful to assure the person that he is not going to die. Or that at least he is no more likely to die today than I or anyone else in the family.

5.  Realize That Identifying the Crisis As a Panic Attack Could Be Half the Battle

If you’re in the middle of a health crisis, and you think you’re dealing with a medical emergency, it's vitally important that you head to the Emergency Room (ER) right away.

With that said, after a few trips to the ER, you may start to see a pattern emerge (i.e., panic attack diagnosis, if the problem is indeed a panic attack). After a few experiences like this, you’ll begin to recognize the difference between a panic attack and a real medical emergency.

And even after a couple of trips to the ER under your belt, this terrifying condition in disguise may still fool you. 

This has happened to us, and it’s always a relief to find out and assure your child that she is not dying or facing a serious medical crisis. She is really, truly going to be okay.

Once you know you’re dealing with a panic attack instead of a medical emergency, try to see if she can relax. In comforting, reassuring tones, encourage her to sit back, relax and breathe in and out, slow and deep.

It’s likely that you’ll find that the panicked feelings will soon melt away.

6. Try to Help Your Child Get as Much Sleep as She Needs

When a panic attack is threatening to surface, it can be hard to get any sleep.

But the problem is, lack of sleep can make the problem worse. So it's really important to do what you can to make sure your child gets the sleep she needs. 

Here are a few ideas that can help with sleep issues:

  • Avoid giving him caffeine or sugar before bedtime.
  • Try to stick with a routine for bedtime: give him a bath, perhaps read him a story, and try to put him to bed at the same time each night.
  • Consider trying melatonin before bed. A number of studies have indicated that it can be effective in helping children with autism improve their sleep.
  • If she is verbal, ask her if there is anything you can do that might help her sleep: a back rub, some soft music, etc.

7.  Show Your Child Lots of Love and Understanding

Lots of hugs (if they can tolerate them) and love are so important to give our kids the support they need.

It can be helpful to realize that the one experiencing the attack is completely terrified and may be convinced that he is going to die. It’s a horrific experience that isn’t his fault. So it’s important to understand how he’s feeling and try your best to offer him help and comfort.

We can do so much to relieve our children’s suffering if they know we love them and that we’re here to support and help them in any way we can.

Try to remind your child every day of how much you love her and care for her. If she can tolerate it, offer plenty of hugs and back rubs to show you care.

Having the support and love from Mom, Dad and the rest of the family can make all the difference in the world in coping effectively with this condition.

For more helpful information on panic attacks by Help Guide, click here.

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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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