What is a Panic Attack? How to Control Panic Attack?
Last updated date: 16-Jul-2021
5 mins read
- Among men and women, women are more likely to have as compared to men.
- People of all age groups can experience panic attacks. However, are first experienced during the early adult years.
Categories of panic and anxiety-related disorders – how to differentiate?
1. Panic attacks are strong, intense periods of fear or feeling doom that develop across a short time frame (around 10 minutes). They are linked to at least four of the below-mentioned factors:
- Sudden overwhelming fear.
- Shortness of breath.
- Pain in the chest.
- A feeling of choking.
- A fear of dying.
- Hot flushes or cills.
- Numbnes or tingling in the hands and legs or the entire body.
- De-realization (a feeling of being detached from the world).
Panic disorder and panic attacks and are not the same. A panic disorder includes repeated panic attacks. These attacks are accompanied by a constant fear of having future panic attacks and, usually, avoiding circumstances that might trigger or recall past attacks. All panic attacks are not caused by panic disorders. Other causes that might trigger a panic attack are:
- Heart attacks
- Social phobia
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Agoraphobia (fear of not being able to escape like being in crowds or flying in an airplane)
- Mitral valve prolapse
2. Generalized anxiety disorder is an extreme, unrealistic worry across a duration of at least six months. It is linked to a minimum of three of the below-mentioned symptoms:
- Muscle tension
- Personality changes, such as becoming less social
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
- Irritability or explosive anger
3. Phobia disorders are severe, continuous, and repeated fear of particular objects (such as insects, blood) or situations (such as public speaking, heights). Exposure to such objects or situations might trigger a panic attack. Examples of phobia disorders are agoraphobia and social phobia.
4. Post-traumatic stress disorder details a series of emotional reactions. These reactions can be a result of:
- Near-death situations, like earthquakes, floods, fires, accidents, etc, or death.
- Experiences that threaten someone’s (own) or another person’s physical health.
These traumatic situations might emerge in a person’s dreams and thoughts. The situations are re-experienced by feelings of horror, helplessness, and fear. General behaviors include:
- Being hypervigilant (you closely watch your surroundings)
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling a general sense of gloom and doom with diminished emotions (such as loving feelings or aspirations for the future)
- Avoiding people, activities, or places linked with the triggering event
- Difficulty concentrating
What are the causes of panic attacks?
The underlying causes of panic attacks are different for different patients, and one may not be able to ascertain a definite causal factor. However, it is analyzed that the brain and nervous system play an important role in handling anxiety or fear in a given situation. The risk of occurrence of a panic attack increases due to the following reasons:
- Mental health issues – People having depression, mental illness, and anxiety disorder are prone to panic attacks.
- Family history – Panic disorders often run in the family.
- Substance abuse problems – Drug addiction and alcohol consumption increase the risk of a panic attack.
Panic attacks occur suddenly and take time to subside. Symptoms of a panic attack are visible approximately after 10 minutes of the occurrence. However, once the fear mode is passed, these also disappear soon.
How are panic disorders diagnosed?
Some of the critical health issues, such as heart problems, respiratory issues, and thyroid disease, cause similar symptoms of a panic attack. To understand the exact cause of health problems, the healthcare professional will carry out some tests. Thus, the healthcare provider will diagnose whether the symptoms are due to a physical problem or a panic attack.
Some of the common factors for repeated panic attacks are as follows:
- Worry about having more panic attacks or the consequences of the same.
- Change in behavior to avoid situations that trigger a panic attack.
- Think about losing control during a panic attack.
What are the complications associated with a panic attack?
People often hesitate to seek help for treating panic attacks, however, panic attacks can be treated easily. If the panic attacks or a disorder is not treated, it would hamper your daily life and may lead to other complications.
How to treat a panic attack?
There are some effective treatment options available for reducing and then stopping panic attacks. Medication, psychotherapy, and a combination of both are the treatment options available for the treatment of panic disorder:
- Antidepressants – Some of the antidepressant medications reduce the frequency of panic attacks and make it less severe.
- Psychotherapy – Talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy are the types of psychotherapy in which the healthcare provider discusses the thoughts and emotions of a patient. The healthcare provider identifies the trigger areas and helps you to overcome those by counseling. These counseling sessions help you respond differently to the situation that triggers panic attacks.
- Anti-anxiety medications – Benzodiazepines is one of the most common anti-anxiety medications prescribed by professionals to treat and prevent panic attacks.
The treatment duration depends on the severity of the disorder and how well the patient responds to it.
A panic attack feels similar to a heart attack. Though it is seen that almost all panic attacks end within approximately 10 minutes; whereas, a heart attack can last for a longer time. If you notice symptoms of a panic attack, contact your nearest healthcare center immediately.
What can be done to prevent panic attacks?
During your psychotherapy sessions, the provider would help you react differently to the situations that trigger panic attacks and prescribe medications to prevent the occurrence of panic attacks. Also, you can implement the following actions to lower the occurrence of panic attacks:
- Exercise regularly.
- Manage stress.
- Reduce the consumption of caffeine.
- Consult the healthcare provider before consuming any over-the-counter supplements.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
How do people live with panic disorder?
The treatment of panic attacks helps you to enjoy and live a fearless life. With professional help and treatment, most of the people suffering from panic attacks get better.
Medical help at the appropriate time helps overcome the issue, as some panic attacks have symptoms of physical problems like a heart attack. Thus, medical care is required in such instances, and you should immediately call for medical help if you experience the following:
- Chronic anxiety in daily routine.
- Difficulty in concentrating while working.
- Agoraphobia (fear of leaving home to go to public places ).
- Sleep disorders.
- Extreme irritability.
- Panic attack symptoms that last for more than 10 minutes.
The bottom line
Panic attacks,in some cases, can be extremely painful and uncomfortable, both physically and mentally. They may hamper your routine and can affect your mental health. Seeking help immediately can help one avoid the occurrence of panic attacks in the future. Symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, fainting, and weakness should not be automatically attributed to anxiety; they require evaluation by a doctor.