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Hysteria, Hiccups and Panic Attacks

The word hysteria has come to mean the extreme behaviour exhibited at time of high emotion. This can be positive emotion, for example delight at a pop concert, or negative emotion, for example the shock of hearing bad news. Hiccups are caused by an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the lung and stomach cavities. They are very common and although not serious can be irritating and tiring if an attack continues.

Signs and symptoms of hysteria

  • Screaming, shouting and uncontrollable crying
  • Hyperventilation (breathing too fast) ­ this may lead to dizziness and or trembling
  • An apparent inability to move (the person may appear to be rooted to the spot)
  • Aggressive behaviour (the person may direct this towards himself)

First Aid for Treating hysteria

Although this type of behaviour may appear to be extreme, the affected person's feelings are very real to him or her. Hysteria is often a common, and some would argue, healthy response to situations of high stress.

  1. Speak to the affected person firmly but quietly. Do not shout at her.
  2. Move the person away from onlookers as subconsciously she may be reacting to the crowd.
  3. Encourage the person to focus on breathing. If she is suffering from the effects of hyperventilation, such as cramps in the hands or dizziness, hand over a paper bag and advise her to re-breathe her own exhaled air.
  4. Stay with the person until she has recovered.
  5. Check the person for injury or any underlying medical condition, and treat as appropriate.

First Aid for Treating hiccups

There are various suggested treatments for hiccups.

  • Give the affected person a paper bag and encourage her to re-breathe her own exhaled air.
  • Make the person drink from the wrong side of a cup.
  • Tell the person to hold her breath for as long as possible.

All these treatments work by increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the blood, which has a positive effect on breathing.

If hiccups persist for more than 30 minutes, or the person is exhausted, seek medical advice.

First Aid for Panic attacks

Panic attacks are sudden instances of extreme anxiety accompanied by alarming physical symptoms such as chest pains, breathing problems, sweating, stomach pains, palpitations (awareness of an abnormally fast heartbeat), dizziness and faintness. The best way to treat this is to encourage the sufferer to stay calm and to remember that the attack will soon pass. Rapid, shallow breathing can be helped by breathing into a paper bag. Relaxation exercises can help a person reduce anxiety levels. If a person has frequent panic arracks, she should see a doctor.

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