At some point, you may suddenly experience a panic attack — your heart races, you have chest pains, and/or you feel an overwhelming sense of dread. However, there are self-soothing techniques you can use before a panic attack so that they become more manageable, particularly if you’ve had panic attacks before and know some of the triggers that cause them.
“Panic attacks are as much physiological as they are cognitive/emotional in the experience,” Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. “Your body essentially goes into a ‘fight or flight’ response, and your sympathetic nervous system is activated and a long list of physiological symptoms occur.” He says that, clinically, some of the symptoms may mimic a heart attack — shortness of breath, sweating, chest pain, dizziness, nausea, and/or weakness.
“A panic attack can literally feel like you are going to die — cognitively, emotionally, and physiologically, your body and mind are sending signals that something is terribly wrong,” he says.
Dr. Klapow says that although panic attacks, by definition, come on suddenly, there are not really any pre-attack symptoms. But if you have had a panic attack before, it can help you identify when one is about to happen, and you can then use tactics to lessen or prevent one from happening. Below, Dr. Klapow and other experts share self-soothing techniques you can try before a panic attack.