When Panic Attacks Strike


Melbourne Victory’s Mitch Austin, was a guest on the couch of ABC’s News Breakfast Show and was only a few minutes into the interview with Georgie Tunny when things got difficult.

Mitch suffered a panic attack and like many sufferers, was overwhelmed by the sudden rush of fear causing him to abruptly leave the set.

Panic attacks can strike at any time and whilst they can be triggered by a specific event or situation, sometimes they can happen for no apparent reason.

What is a panic attack?

To get technical, there are three different types of panic attacks:

Situationally Bound: Occur in specific situations (e.g. public speaking).

Situationally Predisposed: Panic attacks have previously occurred in these situations, but not every time (e.g. sitting an exam).

Unexpected: No obvious trigger or event can be determined as the cause of the panic attack.

What happens in a panic attack?

Psychologists label a behavior as a ‘panic attack’ when there are four or more of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain including palpitations, accelerated or pounding heart rate
  • Sweating or cold chills
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness or tingling in hands
  • Feeling faint, dizzy or weak
  • Sense of impending doom

How can you stop a panic attack?

There are several ways that you can either calm yourself down from a panic attack or help someone who is suffering from one.

  • Remove them from the situation that is causing the panic
  • If they are standing, sit down and place their head between their legs to get the blood back to the brain
  • Focus on breathing. Long deep breaths will return oxygen back to the body, primarily the brain.  This method also removes the focus from the panic and gets the concentration on inhaling and exhaling.

Can you prevent panic attacks?

Panic attacks hit quite suddenly and when they do hit, it can feel like a huge tidal wave of fear where you feel the need to escape.  It can be difficult to prevent panic attacks in situations where you feel you have already mentally prepared yourself for a situation or; you may not even be aware that is something is concerning you until you start having a panic attack.

However, it is not impossible to prevent panic, or at least control, panic attacks.

If you know you are prone to panic attacks, there are some simple measures which you can incorporate into your daily routine and most of these measures are in relation to relaxing your brain:

  • Ensure you are getting a good night sleep to allow your brain to rest and reset.
  • Practice breathing exercises 10 minutes every morning when you first wake up and 10 minutes before you go to sleep.  There are some great Apps available that can walk you through it.
  • Remove all technology from reaching distance once you are in bed and ready to sleep.
  • Minimise or remove artificial stimulants from your everyday consumption such as sugar and caffeine.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Exercise to help remove excess energy and anxiety. This can be as simple as a 15-minute walk.
  • Speak to a medical professional to help determine if there is an underlying cause of the panic attacks. They will also help suggest some other tools you can use to combat the attacks.

With statistics showing that over 40% of Australians have experienced at least one panic attack, it is a mental health issue that needs to be addressed.

If you or a friend are suffering from panic attacks and would like to speak to a professional, visit our Get Help Page for details on organisations that can help.

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