Panic attacks are a symptom of anxiety or fear and can occur unexpectedly with intense physical and emotional stress. It can be hard to drive, especially when you’re alone, but one TikTok user claims he has a trick that can be distracting enough to calm down.
The host of the Tailor Talking podcast @tailor.talking went viral on TikTok for a post about how, on the advice of a therapist, she started eating Warhead Sour Candies to stave off an oncoming panic attack. Warheads are extremely sour hard candies available at drugstores and on Amazon.
When I say nothing has ever gotten me out of a panic attack faster, I fucking mean it, Taylor says in the video.
@tailor.talking Oof #ankieti #mentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters original sound – TalkingTailor
What exactly is a panic attack?
Panic attacks are triggered by a specific part of the brain called the amygdala, FOLKS Health clinician Melissa Miller told In The Know by Yahoo.
The amygdala is an emotion processing center and helps with basic human survival, as the amygdala largely drives the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) called the fight-or-flight system, she explained. When we need to flee from real danger, the SNS tells our bodies to pump blood faster, stop digestion, and increase our heart rate.
Miller noted that while the amygdala is an amazing part of the brain that helps people stay safe, it can also have trouble identifying real and imagined danger.
So when the brain sees an imagined or perceived threat as real danger, it can still trigger the flight or fight response, when a panic attack can occur.
Panic attack symptoms, Miller added, can be different for everyone, but usually include:
- Short breath
- Gastrointestinal or stomach stress
- Fear of dying
- Derealization or feeling as if you are having an out-of-body experience
But the challenging part about panic attacks, Miller continued, is that the more people focus on the panic attack, the worse the symptoms can become.
Many times panic attacks are triggered by a thought, memory or bodily sensation, there is usually a trigger for panic, but it is very difficult to pin down because the experience of panic is sudden and abrupt, she noted. Many times people go to the emergency room thinking they are having a heart attack or stroke.
Does eating sour candy help with panic attacks?
Using sour candy during a panic attack acts as a grounding focus to distract from the spiral of fear and helps the brain understand that there is no real danger, Miller explained. Sour sweets create a different sensation in the mix to distract from panic attacks.
Because panic attacks are often triggered by an internal thought or emotion rather than an external physical danger, it is very easy for individuals to become overwhelmed with additional thoughts and feelings, creating a focus on either the past (a traumatic event) or the future (I am going to die from this panic attack), he added. is Miller.
From a clinician’s perspective, she noted that the ultimate place they hope to lead clients to is the present moment, where they can de-escalate the physical sensations of the panic attack.
To do this, clinicians like Miller use self-soothing or grounding techniques to calm the body and then the mind. Common grounding techniques to help bring a person back to the present include deep and mindful breathing, holding and describing a melting ice cube, or, as Taylor demonstrated on TikTok, eating a sour candy.
Overall, the sour candy acts as a distraction to the brain and allows the individual to come back to the present moment and out of the fear spiral of a panic attack, Miller said.
On Tailors TikTok, many commenters shared their own disruptors, including Altoides, ice cubes, pickled Skittles, Listerine melts, and even lemons.
@angelfromthebloc #stitch vith @Chloe all my badass with anxiety don’t run to the corner store and get you something sour! #angelfromthebloc #kizbca #anxiety #mentalhealth #mentalhealthavareness #fup original sound – angel FREE PALESTINE
Miller added that using a grounding technique, whether it’s sour candy or something else, is most effective when paired with knowing why panic attacks work (to promote cognitive safety) or mantras like “I’m not in real danger or My panic will go by .
I’m glad to see more therapists encouraging that kind of coping. You can’t calm down if you’re blind with panic, noted @pink_kitten4.
Eating sour candy to stop panic attacks can also have a bonus.
And then you can eat the best tasting hard candies as a treat, noted @thenukemuffin.
It’s like a reward! Taylor replied.
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