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Feel a Panic Attack Coming On? Suck on Sour Candy

If you’ve ever found yourself on the cusp of a panic attack—rapid heart rate, sense of doom or danger, shortness of breath, dizziness—a TikTokker seems to have found a possible solution. “My therapist told me to eat a Warhead whenever I’m feeling a panic attack coming on,” the woman says in her video. “And when I say I’ve never had anything rip me out of the throes of a f—ing panic attack faster, I f—ing mean it.” The woman was referring to the lip-puckering tart candy, and while it may seem an odd solution for anxiety, some experts agree that this trick could prove beneficial.

“There is definitely truth and science behind eating sour or spicy candy to ease anxiety and panic attacks,” mental health counselor Catherine Del Toro tells USA Today. “It’s a wonderful ‘therapy hack’ that is practical because you can carry a sour candy with you anywhere.” Del Toro confirms the basic science behind it, which is that the human brain can “only handle one emergency at a time”—meaning that if it has to focus on the potent flavor in the sufferer’s mouth, it can’t give its full attention to advancing the panic attack.

In other words, sucking on a sour ball is a grounding technique of sorts that halts the brain’s “fight or flight” response in its tracks. Spicy foods can also serve the same purpose, as can doing yoga, making a craft, doing some deep breathing, or even holding an ice cube, experts tell USA Today and In the Know. FOLX Health clinician Melissa Miller tells the latter outlet that such remedies can work even better if teamed with a self-soothing mantra, like “I am not in real danger” or “My panic will pass.”

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Meaning, mindfulness is key in getting the panic attack under control—but it’s important to realize that your body may get accustomed to this trick, so it’s important to change up what distractions you employ if you’re a frequent sufferer of panic attacks. Experts also say that a Warhead or other sour confection is just a temporary fix and not a substitute for possible therapy or medication. “Please do not expect this to cure or heal trauma that leads to panic attacks,” psychotherapist Stephanie Sarkis tells USA Today. (Read more strange stuff stories.)

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