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The term panic attack refers to a sudden onset of fear that triggers severe physical reactions even when no danger or apparent cause is present.
It is terrifying to experience a panic attack. You may think you are dying, losing control, having a heart attack, or even losing control during panic attacks.
Know The Difference Between Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
This article will refer to panic attacks and panic disorder interchangeably. We also have separate articles on How To Deal With Panic Attacks and Nocturnal Panic Attacks: Manifestation Causes And Remedy Of Nocturnal Panic Attacks.
Panic attacks can be quite debilitating, but they are not dangerous. If you have a history of panic disorder, it’s important that you know the symptoms of an oncoming attack so that you can take steps to prevent the onset of an attack or to reduce your discomfort if you do have an attack.
Some individuals may suffer from one or two panic attacks in their lifetime, and the problem goes away after the stressful situation ends.
Nevertheless, if you endure recurrent panic attacks and live in constant fear that another attack is imminent, you may be suffering from panic disorder.
Even though panic attacks don’t pose a significant threat to your life, they can still be frightening and have a negative impact on your life. Treatment, however, is highly effective.
What Are The Symptoms of Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Typically, panic attacks begin unexpectedly. The attacks can occur when you’re driving, on a shopping trip, sleeping, or even during a business meeting. It is possible to suffer from panic attacks occasionally, or you may experience them on a regular basis.
There are many types of panic attacks, but symptoms usually peak within minutes. After a panic attack subsides, you may feel fatigued and worn out.
These are usually some of these symptoms or signs associated with panic attacks:
- Chest pain
- Hot flashes
- Trembling or shaking
- Abdominal cramping
- Rapid, pounding heart rate
- Fear of loss of control or death
- Numbness or tingling sensation
- Sense of impending doom or danger
- A feeling of unreality or detachment
- Dizziness, light-headedness, or feeling faint
- Feeling of tightness in your throat or hyperventilation.
- Fear of having another panic attack is one of the worst things about panic attacks. It is possible to fear panic attacks so much that you avoid certain situations where there might be one.
When To Visit Your Physician
You should immediately seek medical advice if you are experiencing panic attack symptoms. Despite being painful, panic attacks aren’t dangerous. Without treatment, panic attacks can worsen or become more severe.
The symptoms of a panic attack can also resemble those of other problematic health problems, like a heart attack, so it’s crucial to get evaluated by your primary care provider if you’re not sure what’s wrong.
Causes of Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
These factors may contribute to panic attacks and panic disorder, but their exact causes are unknown:
- Stress is a major problem
- Positive emotions or a temperament that is more vulnerable to stress
- Brain changes that affect certain parts of the brain
In most cases, panic attacks usually occur over time instead of arriving suddenly and without warning.
Panic attacks are usually associated with a number of overwhelming fears that peak within minutes before or after the onset of intense physical symptoms.
Try to remember that panic attacks and their associated fear, discomfort, and disorientation are not dangerous but are actually harmless physical responses that occur when your body is in fight or flight mode.
The fight-or-flight mode of the body is an adaptive response to stress that allows an individual to react quickly and appropriately when faced with dangerous situations, like in the case of a lion chasing you.
In this situation, your body prepares itself for vigorous activity. It does this by increasing respiration (taking in oxygen), raising the heart rate (pumping oxygen-rich blood throughout the body), constricting blood vessels that would reduce circulation to certain tissues, releasing glucose (energy) from storage sites in muscles and liver, dilating pupils for more effective vision, and stopping various nonessential bodily functions like digestion. In short, your body is preparing itself for vigorous action.
It has been hypothesized that panic attacks might be linked to your body’s fight-or-flight response to danger. An instinctive reaction would occur if a grizzly bear came after you.
As your body gets ready for a life-threatening emergency, your heart rate and breathing would increase. When you are experiencing a panic attack, you’ll experience similar reactions. When there is no obvious danger present, a panic attack may occur for unknown reasons.
Factors That Increase Risk of Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
- Women are more prone to suffer from panic disorder than men, and symptoms often appear in the late teens or early adulthood.
- There are a variety of factors that might increase the risk of developing panic attacks or panic disorder. Some are listed below…
- Anxiety disorders or panic attacks in the family
- Loss of a loved one, or the serious illness of a family member, causes major stress in life
- A traumatic event, such as a grave accident or sexual assault
- You’ve gone through a major life change, such as a divorce or adding a child to your family
- Excessive caffeine consumption or smoking
- History of childhood physical or sexual abuse
Complications of Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Be it panic disorders or panic attacks, both can have a major impact on your everyday life if left untreated. You may live in a constant state of fear for fear of having more panic attacks, ruining your quality of life.
- Panic attacks may contribute to or be linked to the following complications:
- Development of distinct phobias, like fear of heights, closed rooms, driving or even leaving one’s home
- Health concerns and other medical conditions require frequent medical attention
- Avoiding social interactions
- Work-related or school-related problems
- Psychosomatic disorders, such as depression and anxiety
- Suicidal thoughts or an increased risk of suicide
- Abuse of any substance, including alcohol
- Having financial difficulties
It is possible that panic disorder is accompanied by agoraphobia, or avoiding places or situations that cause you anxiety for fear of not being able to escape if you experience a panic attack. For example, you may become dependent on others to leave the house with you.
Prevention of Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Panic attacks and panic disorders are hard to prevent. The following recommendations, however, could be helpful.
- Know your triggers and avoid them if possible. Stress can trigger a panic attack, as can caffeine or a full stomach. If you believe that certain situations or environments might be too stressful, try to avoid those places and things that cause you anxiety.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs for help with panic disorder. These substances could make the symptoms of panic attacks and panic disorders worse.
- Avoid spending excessive amounts of time on the computer, especially if you expect to feel anxious. As a matter of fact, try to avoid using the internet altogether – it doesn’t offer any real benefits (apart from helping people express their feelings).
- If you are suffering from depression as well, try to get help for it. It’s a good way to prevent panic attacks and/or panic disorders!
- De-stress yourself. If you’re the type of person that finds yourself feeling stressed, worried or extremely anxious on an ongoing basis, then maybe what you need is just to relax and let your mind rest. Try yoga, meditation, reading a book – any activity that will help you to de-stress. That might be enough to stop panic attacks and make panic disorder a thing of the past!
- Of course, if your condition is making your life hell on earth, seek help. Most of the time it’s not hard at all to find a competent psychiatrist or psychologist who can offer some professional guidance. There are medications that may be used to help you with your panic attacks and panic disorder, but it is best to try to go the natural route first.
- Make sure that you follow your treatment plan to avoid relapses or worsening symptoms.
- Maintain a regular physical activity regimen, which may help you cope with anxiety.
- Also, make sure you involve family and friends in your recovery – after all, they can be of great help! Tell them how you feel and ask them for support. And if you recognize any of the symptoms listed above, don’t hesitate to consult a medical professional.
Just remember – it gets better! It may be scary right now, but your life will eventually return to normal and things will become less scary.
The most important thing is for you to seek help as soon as possible. Chances are you’ll feel much better about it!
Remember, panic attacks and panic disorders can be cured with proper treatment and care. And if you are feeling depressed because of your condition, you may want to consider getting help for depression as well.
It’s definitely possible to lead a happy life after panic attacks and once again live the way you used to – or maybe even better!
Here on this website, you’ll find some more information on what exactly happens in your brain and body during a panic attack. However, this article primarily focuses on the emotional aspect of panic attacks and panic disorder.
If you are looking for help with treating the symptoms of anxiety disorders by using medications or natural remedies or at least want to do something about it by yourself, make sure to check out the rest of the articles on this blog.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used in place of a qualified health professional. If you have had panic attacks or are experiencing anxiety symptoms that interfere with your day-to-day life, please consult your doctor before reading further.Ranjeeta nath Ghai, Certified Life Coach
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