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Panic attacks

Hi Sam,

I’m 15 in year 11 and lately I’ve been having really bad panic attacks at school where I’ll have to leave the classroom. I have a card which means I can go whenever I need to. I don’t know how to stop these panic attacks and when they happen I feel like my throat is closing up and I can’t breath and I begin to feel super sick (being sick is my biggest phobia) which makes me even more panicked. Do you have any tips on how to get rid of a panic attack in class?

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Sam

Hi there

Lots of people have panic attacks but there are things you can do to help manage them. Although it can sometimes feel like something bad is going to happen, a panic attack can’t harm you on its own. Panic attacks can happen suddenly and for different reasons, like feeling stressed, anxious or remembering things from the past.

A panic attack can feel frightening, especially when you’re worried. Feeling scared about your breathing or that you might be sick can make you feel more anxious. This can then make the panic attack feel worse or last longer.

Often the best thing to do is to take some slow deep breaths. Relax your body by dropping your shoulders and unclenching your hands and distract yourself with positive thoughts and focusing your attention on things around you. Try to notice the colour of the walls, the sound of traffic or rain or watch on the clouds in the sky while you breathe in to a count of four and out to a count of four. Remind yourself that even if it feels like a long time the feelings will gradually get less and try to remember that you’ve coped with these feelings before.

Sometimes you might link panic attacks with certain places, activities or people and then try to avoid them or stop going to places where you’ve had a panic attack before. It might make things seem easier at the time but avoiding everyday things can make them harder to face in the future and can affect your daily life. Finding ways to cope with anxiety and stress so things don’t build up can help you manage your feelings. This can help you do the things you need to, like going to school and catching the bus.

You can practise breathing exercises any time, not just when you’re feeling anxious. After a minute or two you should notice that you feel calmer and that the feelings aren’t as strong.

Having a pass so that you can leave the classroom to do your breathing exercises can help. Or you can sit by an open window so that you can open it if you feel hot and dizzy or distract yourself by looking outside when you feel anxious. It’s also important to get extra help and support from adults you trust, that way you can have agreements about things that might help you when you feel panicked.

Remember to check how you’re feeling during the day so that you can recognise the signs of a panic attack early on and use your coping strategies before things get worse. That way, feeling panicked will happen less often or will be less severe when it does

I hope this advice has helped and you can talk to a counsellor if you need some more support.

Take care

Sam

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