All of us feel nervous or anxious sometimes, but some of us suffer with a more severe form of anxiety at times—a panic attack. It usually comes suddenly and gives the feeling that something bad is happening, but the bad thing doesn’t make sense, because nothing terrible is happening. When you suffer an attack, you might be driving on a quiet road, an all of a sudden, it hits.
The person suffering a panic attack usually notices that their heart is beating fast, they might have problems breathing, and feel dizzy or weak. They might think they will lose control. These episodes last for a few minutes or much longer, and in some people, they happen frequently.
What can you do if you have a panic attack? Today we describe a way that medical studies show is the most effective way to stop it. There was a research study just published in the journal Science that describes why this simple technique works.
How to stop a panic attack
The best treatment is the most simple one. When a panic attack hits, concentrate on breathing slowly and deeply. That’s all. Sounds easy, and it is. The research suggests that when you are wrapped up in a panic attack, with everything happening quickly (your heart, breathing, sweating), the best thing to do is concentrate on the opposite.
The best way to do that is a something always available and usually under your control—your breathing. Concentrate on taking long, slow, and deep breathes. This will stop most panic attacks. It’s like an emergency meditation, and it works.
Researchers have long known that slow breathing seems to help stop a panic attack, but they didn’t know why. Now, researchers from Stanford University (California) published a research study that explains why slow deep breathing helps.
Why slow breathing works
The research was done in mice, and the Stanford researchers believe this study relates to the human brain as well. Note that studies on individual cells in the human brain are exceedingly difficult (since taking specimens of the human brain will produce serious deficits). Decades of research show that often results from studies on mouse brains give information that is true for human brains as well.
The researchers discovered that there is a collection of neurons in the brainstem of humans that control breathing. The mouse study showed that these cells not only control breathing, but also influence our general state of alertness. If stimulated in the breathing center of our brain, some of these cells send signals to our “higher” brain funcitons to become alert, anxious, or even frantic.
When we breathe slowly and deeply, the cells that trigger this heightened alertness are shut down, and in this way would stop or at least slow down any sense of panic we have. In summary, next time you feel a panic attack coming on, concentrate on one thing you can easily control, your breathing. A more relaxed brain will follow.
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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)