What do Emma Stone, John Mayer, Amanda Seyfried… and The Doctors’ guest psychiatrist Dr. Domenick Sportelli all have in common? They have all publicly admitted to suffering from panic attacks.
Dr. Sportelli says that 4 million people suffer from panic attacks and most people don’t even report them, so the number is probably much higher.
A panic attack is a physiological response -- your heart rate increases, you can become short of breath, start to sweat, your muscles tense, and blood goes to different places in your body which could make you cramp and feel nauseous. Dr. Sportelli describes it as an overreaction to a perceived threat and says if you can understand it, it can be less scary.
The objective is to activate the vagus nerve, which will slow down symptoms and calm the body. Here are Dr. Sportelli’s three non-medicinal ways to tackle your panic attack:
1. Ground yourself: Take off your shoes, get comfortable and put your feet on the ground. At this point take deep breaths -- breath in for 5 seconds, hold for 2 seconds and breathe out for another 5 seconds.
2. Dunk your head into a sink of freezing cold ice water: Dr. Sportelli says this has been shown to slow heart rate down by up to 20%.
3. Do the wrist-arm technique: Grab your elbows with opposite hands and drag your hands along the forearms to the wrists. This is very soothing and will have a calming effect as well as distract your mind.