Panic Attacks & Panic Disorder
Do your heart beating like crazy, feeling unable to breathe and even dying or going crazy? If you are having such troubles, this may indicate a panic attack. So what is the common panic attack among the public? What are the symptoms of panic attacks?
If you have experienced high levels of anxiety or fear in any subject, you may be familiar with the feeling of having a panic attack. You’ve probably had a panic attack, especially if you’re losing weight quickly, having trouble breathing, your heart beating too fast, and even feeling like you’re dying or going crazy. Panic attacks can lead to many other problems as they may turn into panic disorder and decrease your quality of life if left untreated.
Don’t worry, panic attacks are also treatable disorders like many other psychological disorders. With the right treatment and self-help techniques, you can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of panic, regain your confidence and take control of your life.
What’s a Panic Attack ?
Panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.
Many people have just one or two panic attacks in their lifetimes, and the problem goes away, perhaps when a stressful situation ends. But if you’ve had recurrent, unexpected panic attacks and spent long periods in constant fear of another attack, you may have a condition called panic disorder.
Although panic attacks themselves aren’t life-threatening, they can be frightening and significantly affect your quality of life. But treatment can be very effective.
What are the signs and symptoms of panic attacks?
Signs and symptoms of panic attacks develop suddenly and usually reach its peak within 10 minutes. They rarely last more than an hour, and often end in 20-30 minutes. Panic attacks can occur at any time and anywhere. You can have a panic attack while shopping at the store, walking down the street, driving your car or even sitting on the couch at home. Symptoms of panic attacks are usually:
- Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain or unexplained discomfort in the chest
- Feeling of unreality or detachment
- Numbness or tingling sensation
- Fear of loss of control or death
- Hot flashes
Although a panic attack lasts only a few minutes, the effects of the experience can leave a scar. If you have panic disorder, recurrent panic attacks can wear you out emotionally. Intense anxiety and negative memory during attacks may negatively affect your self-confidence and cause serious disruptions in your daily life. As a result, the following may develop:
Anxiety – You will feel uncomfortable, anxious and tense because of the possibility of relapse.
Phobic avoidance – You start to avoid certain situations or environments. This avoidance may be based on the belief that the situation you want to avoid causes previous panic attacks. Or, if you’ve had a panic attack before, you can stay away from places where escape can be difficult or help is unavailable. When this condition is excessive, phobic avoidance becomes agoraphobia.
What causes panic attack and panic disorder?
Although the exact causes of panic attacks and panic disorder are not clear, the tendency to have panic attacks can often be due to family predisposition and upbringing, as is the case with many psychological disorders. It is also linked to important life transitions such as graduating from school, entering work, getting married or having a baby. Severe stress, such as divorce from a loved one, dismissal, death of a loved one, can trigger panic attacks.
When to see a doctor
If you have panic attack symptoms, seek medical help as soon as possible. Panic attacks, while intensely uncomfortable, are not dangerous. But panic attacks are hard to manage on your own, and they may get worse without treatment.
Panic attack symptoms can also resemble symptoms of other serious health problems, such as a heart attack, so it’s important to get evaluated by your primary care provider if you aren’t sure what’s causing your symptoms.
What is the treatment of panic attacks and panic disorder?
Therapy is the most effective form of professional treatment in the fight against panic attacks, panic disorder and agoraphobia. Even a short treatment process can help patients.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, EMDR and other methods of treatment have proven effective on panic attacks and panic disorder. In therapies, the therapist focuses on thought patterns and behaviors that sustain or trigger your panic attacks and help you look at your fears with a more realistic perspective. The goal is to make the panic experience less dreadful when you find out that there is nothing really disastrous.
Another effective method in the treatment of panic attacks is drug therapy. The drug can be used to temporarily control or reduce some symptoms of panic disorder. However, it should be noted that it does not completely cure or solve the problem. The drug may be useful in severe cases, but should not be the only treatment followed.
Treatment is most effective when combined with other treatments such as medication and lifestyle changes that address the underlying causes of panic disorder.