Dr Kirren Schnack’s tips for helping with panic attacks

This week I heard to a fascinating interview on Times Radio with clinical psychologist, Dr Kirren Schnack. She revealed how she had been surprised by the popularity of her short video on TikTok, ‘three ways to stop a panic attack’, which gives some quick tips for helping with panic attacks and reducing their effects.

Dr Schnack’s tips for helping with panic attacks include:

  • Breathe in and out using a straw. Breathing out for longer than you breathe in, which helps to naturally reduce hyperventilation by balancing the gases in your blood.
  • Put your face in a bowl of iced water. This creates a strong sensory diversion.
  • Do jumping jacks. Quick exercise makes a physical diversion from what’s going on mentally.

Schnack admits these three methods appear a little unconventional at first but are backed up by some sound methodology. Panic attacks can be the result of the nervous system becoming overwhelmed, but you can turn off some of its signals by stimulating the sensory system. While some people will benefit from riding out feelings associated with an attack, for others the sensations of a panic are too overwhelming. These methods can form a ‘diversion from what’s going on mentally, and from an anxiety point of view.’ This in turn can stop the escalating sensations of panic.

Schnack advises it might be helpful for people to be aware of these strategies before a panic attack starts because they can help someone in the moment. They should be seen as techniques to help you cope ‘until you are able to address the fully underlying root cause of the problem’ using therapy. The strategies can also help people alleviate distress between therapy sessions.

Reaching a Younger Audience

Reaching out to a younger audience using TikTok is particularly relevant. Reducing anxiety in young people is important at a time when pressures caused by ‘academic stress, technology, social media, and family dynamics’ are compounded by huge changes occurring within the brain. There are so many factors combining just when young people and teenagers are trying to establish their identity and build self-esteem. As levels of poor mental health amongst young people are at a record high, we would surely all benefit from more research in this field.

Tips for Panic Attacks and Anxiety: find out more

The strategies are also referred to in Schnack’s new book, ‘Ten Times Calmer: Beat Anxiety and Change Your Life’. You can find out more at Dr Schnack’s website. If you would like to know more about how therapy can help to cope with feelings of anxiety and panic attacks, please use this link to contact me.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that can affect men, women, and children. The causes of OCD are not always clear, but it’s characterised by Obsessions (unwanted and intrusive thoughts or images that enter your mind, causing anxiety) and Compulsions (repetitive acts or behaviours in response to those thoughts).

For example, someone with an obsessive fear of contaminating themselves or others might repeatedly wash their hands. They are doing this because it feels right to protect themselves or those closest to them, and not necessarily because their hands are dirty. Similarly, people with an obsessive fear of being burgled might repeatedly check locks, doors, and windows several times before feeling safe to leave the house.

Obsessive compulsive disorder can start in childhood, but it’s causes may not be apparent. It might be triggered by a stressful change or significant life-event, or it could owe to differences in brain activity or low levels of serotonin. There could also be a genetic factor; people with a family history of OCD are more likely to develop the condition.

Seeing a therapist can help you to overcome OCD, and talking therapies can be particularly effective. Please contact me if you would like to know more. You can also find more information at OCD-UK. This charity allows people to better understand the condition. It also offers support and advice to those trying to overcome OCD.