Professional woman sitting at a desk holding her head and experiencing anxiety while colleagues hold papers in front of her.

Anxiety and panic attacks are incredibly common, affecting millions of people worldwide. The good news is that they are also highly treatable. At UAB UAB Medical West, we understand how isolating it can feel when facing mental health issues. We want you to know you’re not alone.

Today, we’ll delve into the world of anxiety and panic attacks, exploring their differences, providing tips for managing them at home, and highlighting how professional treatment and guidance from UAB UAB Medical West can make a significant difference in your journey toward recovery.

Anxiety vs. Panic Attacks: What's the Difference?

Before we dive into the tips for managing anxiety and panic attacks, let's clarify the distinction between the two.

Anxiety is a natural response to stress or fear, often characterized by excessive worry, restlessness, and a persistent sense of apprehension. It can be a normal part of life, but when it becomes overwhelming and constant, it may develop into an anxiety disorder.

Panic attacks, on the other hand, are intense, sudden surges of fear and distress. They often come out of the blue, accompanied by physical symptoms like a racing heart, shortness of breath, and trembling. Panic attacks are brief but incredibly intense, leaving individuals feeling as though they are in immediate danger, even when there is no apparent threat.

One common symptom that can occur in both anxiety and panic attacks is shortness of breath. This can be particularly distressing because it can make it seem like something is physically wrong with the body, exacerbating worry. Sometimes, just knowing that the sensation is directly related to anxiety or panic and not to a problem with the lungs can help alleviate symptoms.

How to Tell if Shortness of Breath is from Anxiety

Shortness of breath can be a shared symptom in both anxiety and panic attacks, but there are some key differences in how it presents in each:

Anxiety-Related Shortness of Breath

In cases of anxiety, shortness of breath often occurs in response to perceived stressors or triggers. It tends to be less severe than during panic attacks and can often be relieved by calming techniques such as deep breathing exercises or mindfulness.

Panic Attack-Related Shortness of Breath

During a panic attack, shortness of breath is usually more intense and sudden. It can feel like a "smothering" sensation, making it difficult to breathe. It often escalates rapidly, reaching its peak within minutes.

Tips for Dealing with Anxiety at Home

Now that we've established the differences between anxiety and panic attacks, let's explore some practical tips for managing anxiety at home:

Practice Deep Breathing

Deep, slow, diaphragmatic breathing can help calm your nervous system. Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four, hold for four, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of four. Daily practice, even when you are not feeling anxious, can help mitigate symptoms.

Stay Active

Regular exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Engage in activities you enjoy, whether brisk walking, yoga, or dancing around your living room.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness can help you stay in the present moment and reduce the constant worrying associated with anxiety. There are many apps and online resources available to guide you through meditation practices.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

What you eat can significantly impact your mental health. A well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can positively affect your mood and energy levels.

Get Adequate Sleep

Sleep is essential for managing anxiety. Ensure you get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Create a relaxing bedtime routine to help you unwind before sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, contact our Sleep Disorder Center today.

Limit Caffeine and Alcohol

Both caffeine and alcohol can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Limit your intake and monitor how these substances affect your mental state.

Tips for Managing Panic Attacks at Home

Managing panic attacks can be challenging, but with the right strategies, you can regain control and reduce their impact:

Grounding Techniques

When experiencing a panic attack, try grounding exercises to reconnect with reality. Describe your surroundings in detail, touch various objects, or take note of different sensations.

Controlled Breathing

There are many breathing techniques that have been proven to help with panic attacks. One that works particularly well is called the physiological sigh, made popular by Dr. Andrew Huberman from Stanford University.

Use Positive Affirmations

Have a set of positive affirmations ready for moments of distress. Repeating phrases like "This too shall pass" or "I am safe" can be reassuring during a panic attack.

Avoid Triggers

Identify and avoid situations or environments that trigger your panic attacks when possible. Knowing your triggers is a critical step in managing them. This is something you can discuss with your UAB UAB Medical West health professional. If you have questions or want to discuss options for mental health treatment, call us at (205) 481-7000.

The Role of UAB UAB Medical West in Treating Anxiety

While self-help strategies can be effective, it's essential to recognize when professional treatment is needed. UAB UAB Medical West offers comprehensive services for individuals struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. Here's how they can make a difference in your journey to recovery:

1. Expert Diagnosis: The first step in addressing anxiety and panic attacks is an accurate diagnosis. UAB UAB Medical West's experienced professionals can evaluate your condition and provide an individualized treatment plan.

2. Medication Management: In some cases, medication may be recommended to help manage anxiety and panic attacks. UAB UAB Medical West's healthcare providers can guide you in understanding your prescription and ensure it's effective for your unique needs.

3. Therapy and Counseling: Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can be highly effective in treating anxiety and panic attacks. UAB UAB Medical West offers access to trained therapists who specialize in these treatments.

4. Supportive Environment: UAB UAB Medical West provides a supportive and compassionate environment for individuals seeking treatment. You'll have a dedicated team working with you to improve your mental health.

5. Holistic Approach: UAB UAB Medical West takes a holistic approach to mental health, recognizing the importance of physical fitness, diet, and lifestyle in managing anxiety and panic attacks.

Anxiety and panic attacks are more common than you might think, but they are also highly treatable. By understanding the differences between these conditions, practicing self-help strategies, and seeking professional guidance from UAB UAB Medical West, you can regain control of your mental health and lead a fulfilling, anxiety-free life. Remember, you are not alone, and help is available when you need it most.

 UAB UAB Medical West understands the importance of mental and physical health. Proudly serving Birmingham and the surrounding communities for over 50 years, we’re here to help you navigate anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental illnesses. Get in touch with us today by calling (205) 481-7000 or contacting us online!