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Financial worries are causing panic attacks – and people are turning to apps “before doctors”

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Phone apps are becoming the go-to solution for poor mental health including anxiety and panic attacks. Is tech preferable to getting a doctor’s appointment? 

Financial struggles and job uncertainty, which follow a long-lasting lockdown, have taken their toll on the mental health of many people – with a third of us having experienced a panic attack in 2022. 

The upcoming holidays and cost of living crisis has undoubtedly added another layer to the major financial burden being felt nationally and even globally. 

Figures show that women are two and a half times more likely to develop a panic disorder, making them particularly vulnerable during difficult times of year. 

Coping with panic attacks – with tech

Anton Kotelnikov, a mental wellbeing expert and co-founder of the Afterglow app, shared his top tips with Health Tech World. He said: “We all get scared every now and then, and that’s pretty normal. However, panic attacks are much more intense. 

“They come out of nowhere, cause intense fear, and leave you feeling terrified. The good news is that they’re not life-threatening and will eventually go away. 

“Even better news? You actually can learn how to handle them, so that they pass more quickly, and even prevent them,” — said Anton Kotelnikov, co-founder of the Afterglow app.

Apps before doctors

Kristina Buckland told us that she prefers mental health apps to help with her poor mental health, than trying to get a doctor’s appointment. She added: “Have you tried getting a GP appointment these days?

“And worse still, have you tried getting real help for anxiety and panic? The very best you’ll get is a prescription for more pills. Or a waiting list for CBT which you can expect to be on for over a year at least. 

“The state of the NHS actually makes my condition worse. I have been using apps on my phone to do breathing exercises and meditations which have worked better than any pharmaceutical solution so far. So yes, apps before doctor’s at least in my case.”

How can you tell if you’re having a panic attack?

Each person experiences a panic attack differently. However, its most common symptoms are:

  • Sudden anxiety and overwhelming fear
  • Dread of impending doom or that you are going to die
  • Physical symptoms may include chills, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and pounding, racing heart 

What to do if it happens

No one can help you during a panic attack better than you. Anton Kotelnikov shares how you can help yourself:

  1. Breathe. Close your eyes. Breathe in slowly, gently, and deeply through your nose, then out through the mouth. Try counting to five with each inhale and exhale.
  2. Focus. Try fixing your attention on a single thing. Inspect it, feel it, and look at its features. Doing so can help drown out other stimuli and help reduce your symptoms. 
  3. Turn to your body. Progressive muscle relaxation can be handy when you’re anxious or have an impending attack. Tense a muscle group (like your calves) for 5 seconds, then release them while saying “relax.” Give yourself 10 seconds to fully relax before moving on to the next muscle group.
  4. Count. This 5-4-3-2-1 approach for coping with anxiety is simple and effective. Here’s how it works:
  • Five. Name five things you see around you.
  • Four. Name four things you can touch.
  • Three. Name three things you can hear. 
  • Two. Note two things you can smell. 
  • One. Notice something you can taste inside your mouth. 

After a panic attack

Anton Kotelnikov shares these vital steps for after you’ve had a panic attack:

  • Talk it out. Panic attacks can be frightening, but talking to people in the same boat as you can be comforting. Talk to loved ones or find support groups online — some even let you interact anonymously. You’ll feel better knowing you’ll get through it just like everyone else.
  • Cut back on coffee, booze, and cigarettes. These can make panic attacks worse.
  • Eat well and work out. Exercising regularly can help you manage your stress, tension, and anxiety, improve your mood, and boost your confidence. Balanced meals keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  • Find a grounding object. You can keep a personal item (like a small toy or hair clip) to help ground you during an attack if you get recurring episodes.
  • Learn your triggers. Some things may trigger a person’s panic attacks more than others. Identifying and avoiding one’s triggers can help reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.
  • Talk to your doctor. They can help determine if an underlying health condition is causing the episodes. They can also assess whether prescription medicine or therapy might help you cope with the symptoms.


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