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How to deal with a panic attack

health and fitness Updated: Dec 05, 2011 00:34 IST
Dr Anjali Mukerjee
Dr Anjali Mukerjee
Hindustan Times
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Often, people panic during periods of acute anxiety. Such panic attacks could occur all of a sudden and even without a reason. Some of the most common symptoms experienced are breathlessness or hyperventilation, increased rate of heart beats (palpitations), shivers or chills, chest pain, feeling of anxiety, numbness and distrust from the environment, profuse sweating, dizziness, hot or cold flashes, extreme fear of death or other phobias and nausea.

The root cause of a panic attack is still unclear. A genetic link could be established in individuals with recurrent panic attacks. Major transitions in life, physiologically and emotionally, could be some of the causes. Panic attacks are also seen in pre-menopausal and menopausal periods of life. Panic attack could also stem from medical conditions like hyperthyroidism, hypoglycemia in diabetics (and non-diabetics too).

However, magnesium deficiency leads to arrhythmic heart beats, palpitations, muscle twitches and pain, breathlessness, thus taking the body towards a full-blown panic attack. Increased intake of refined foods like maida and maida products, rice, sugar could lead to a magnesium deficient diet. Around 400 mg magnesium is advised as the daily recommended intake.

Food sources rich in magnesium are peanuts, pumpkin seeds, black beans and other legumes, whole grain cereals and green leafy vegetables.

Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine found in tobacco, colas, coffee, tea, chocolate should be avoided. Eat proteins with eggs, chicken, fish, tofu, paneer as it helps stabilise blood sugar and prevents mood swings and panic attack. Do not skip meals. Try to eat calming foods like oat, meat, porridge, rice and dal, whole wheat pastas, idlis etc.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are more preferred over cooked and processed food items. Lack of water intake could also lead to a similar event. Herbs like St John’s Wort, Valerian root and Passiflower, Brahmi, Tagar, shankapushpi have shown to have positive effects on soothing the mind.

Above all, becoming aware that you suffer from panic attacks will help you control the attack consciously. Dealing with day-to-day stress and having a positive state of mind would definitely help overcoming such anxiety related disorders.

Dr. Anjali Mukerjee, Nutritionist and Founder, Director - Health Total