Panic Attacks Their Symptoms And Treatment Options
Panic attacks are known to occur all of a sudden and often without warning. A panic attack typically instils feelings of intense fear and apprehension in the absence of any danger whatsoever. It also contributes to further anxiety. Panic attacks have many variations and symptoms are known to peak within about ten minutes of the occurrence of the attack. Panic attacks are common and usually occur in individuals aged between 15 and 25 years.
An individual is said to be suffering from a panic disorder when the panic attacks recur frequently. In such cases, the sufferer has a significant change of behavior. Between any two attack episodes, the sufferer lives in continuous dread of the attack that is about to occur.
Though the exact cause of panic attacks is not clear, there is both a genetic and a biochemical angle that is believed to cause the attacks. Panic attacks are seen to occur more often after an illness, as a side effect of already existent phobias or depression, after consumption of mind-altering drugs and substances of abuse, after a trauma, after consumption of some medications, etc. If panic disorder occurs after the age of 40, it is possible that the disorder is because of an underlying medical problem.
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Panic Attacks – Symptoms
Panic attacks are characterized by the following symptoms: a sudden feeling of extreme anxiety without any discernible cause, palpitations, uncontrolled tremors, sweating, a choking feeling, lightheadedness, nausea, numbness, chills, hot flashes, tightness in the throat, trouble swallowing, etc. A panic attack that occurs in isolation is not threatening to life. A single and isolated panic attack does not confirm the fact that the individual has panic disorder.
The symptoms of a panic attack may be similar to those of a heart attack. However, the pain in this case occurs in the mid-chest area and not towards the left arm side. Panic attacks last for only for a few minutes but leave the sufferer fatigued and exhausted. They also subside all of a sudden.
The worst part about having a panic attack is the fear that another attack will take place soon. Because of this reason, those who suffer from panic attacks do not leave the premises of their houses and suffer from agoraphobia.
It is essential to seek medical help when panic attacks occur. This is because they are difficult to manage, the condition may deteriorate without treatment and they may also be indicative of other underlying medical problems. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperthyroidism (thyroid gland is overactive), prolapse of the mitral valve, etc., can cause symptoms similar that of a panic attack.
Panic Attacks – Treatment Options
For panic attacks, the goal of treatment is to eliminate all symptoms that occur during such attacks. Both panic attacks and panic disorder are conditions that can be treated. It has been observed that sufferers of this condition have been able to lead normal lives after effective treatment.
The treatment may differ according to the needs of every individual; however, the typical forms of treatment involve cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and/or medications. Alternative and holistic forms of treatments such as relaxation techniques and meditation are also seen to relieve the body of unnecessary anxiety.
Though the accompanying physical symptoms of a panic attack can be tamed by using medications, their use cannot cure the underlying cause. They are most effective when combined with other forms of treatment. Antidepressants are frequently used to treat panic attacks. However, they take a few weeks to produce desired effects and should therefore be continuously taken. Benzodiazepines are anti-anxiety drugs that act within 30 minutes of having taken them. They should be administered under strict medical supervision as they are themselves addictive and cause problems when withdrawn.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is seen to be the most effective method of treatment for panic attacks. Using this therapy the thought patterns that trigger this kind panic and the subsequent behavior that sustains these attacks are handled in a manner such that the sufferer views them in a more realistic fashion. This helps to reduce the terror and dread associated with these attacks and over time the panic attacks reduce.
Exposure therapy involves exposing the sufferer to the same physical sensations as experienced during a panic attack but in safe and controlled environments. This helps the affected to cope with the situations in a healthier manner. Every exposure lessens the physical dread that the sufferer feels and helps him/her to wield greater control over the reactions that ensue.
Self help strategies that include cessation of smoking and reduction of intake of caffeine, performing breathing exercises regularly, practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, etc., are also seen to help.
Panic Attacks – Self Help Treatment
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