Art Therapy for Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can feel quite threatening. Many people head to the emergency room for fear of a heart attack but are diagnosed with a panic attack. Its better to be safe than sorry. Panic attacks may be related to real danger, like being in an accident or a perceived threat. They are quite common. Up to 1/3 of people report experiencing them on occasion.[1] In a nutshell, a panic attack is simply a rush of fear that includes some intense bodily sensations. Some of these sensations can be things like:

  • racing or pounding heart
  • perspiration
  • shaking and trembling
  • vertigo, imbalance, or fainting
  • a lump in the throat or a sensation of choking
  • Feeling spaced out detached or unreal
  • numbness and/or tingling sensation
  • sore stomach
  • diarrhea
  • feeling hot or cold
  • fear of dying or having a heart attack

There is no shame in admitting to having panic attacks. It’s a common stress response. It is simply an indicator that the person could use some tools to help unpack stress. Some simple tips can help lessen the incidence of panic attacks:

  • Don’t skip meals. Choose to eat whole unprocessed foods (limit white flour or sugar). Eat three meals a day with a healthy protein source (beans, fish, lean meats, yogurt, eggs). Whole foods and healthy protein keep blood sugar stable. When blood sugar dips, anxiety may increase. This response is related to an interaction of blood sugar and hormones. Low blood sugar can occur after a high carbohydrate (white flour, sugar, bread, pasta, crackers, rice) meal. Being hungry, overeating carbohydrates and having irregular meals can make anxiety worse.[2]
  • Get enough sleep. A good night’s sleep helps keep stress hormones in check. Have you ever gone through a stressful period and had a series of sleepless nights? Did you notice you were irritated and negative? Its very common to feel out of sorts when you lack sleep. Before I became an art therapist, I was a homeopath and nutritionist. I would recommend clients use some natural sleep aids such as chamomile or lavender tea, magnesium, melatonin, or passionflower. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Art therapy is excellent support for people with stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. It is a form of psychotherapy that uses creative artmaking as a means for expression. Based on what my clients and I discuss during sessions, they create art that may be free-flowing or directed. We discuss the client’s creation. This information can lead to deeper personal insight and opportunities to learn positive coping tools.

As an art therapist, I support many people who have anxiety and panic attacks. After a few sessions, clients gain tools to help manage their bodily stress responses. Here is a case to highlight how art therapy works. Client M (pseudonym) sought help for anxiety and panic attacks following a public speech. M gave routine speeches for work. After one negative incident during her speech, her confidence was shaken. She started having regular panic attacks and she took stress leave from work. She was referred by a client to Art Therapy Guelph. M discovered in her artmaking that she represented herself as feeling exposed and without protection.

Art Therapy for Panic Attacks.

She had some great personal insights that she could protect herself from feeling vulnerable by tapping into her inner wisdom. She created art surrounding ways she can feel more grounded and centred. In time, she managed to call to her mind these tools in a variety of stressful situations.

If you would like more information about Art Therapy Guelph, and how we may help you, contact me today.

[1] Antony, M., McCabe, R., 10 Simple solutions to panic

[2] Can Hypoglycemia Promote Anxiety? (