Panic Attacks

A panic attack, according to the ADAA, is “the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms: a change in heart beat or rate, pain or discomfort in the central chest region, stomach discomfort or nausea, dizziness or feeling faint, shortness of breath, hyperventilation or choking sensation, uncontrollable shaking, sweating or chills, tingling or numbness, and a general fear of dying, losing control or going mad!

Witnessed for the first time and they can be incredibly scary for both the patient and anyone looking on.

Panic attacks have many variations and symptoms are known to peak within about ten minutes of the occurrence of the attack. They are common and most frequently affect individuals aged between 15 and 25 years.

An individual is said to be suffering from a panic disorder when the panic attacks recur frequently. Between any two attack episodes, the sufferer lives in continuous dread of the next attack.

You may also find it useful to read our feature on how to stop a panic attack when you feel it coming on.



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Panic Attacks Their Symptoms And Treatment Options

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.

Panic Attack 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 appear 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.

Establish The Trigger

panic attacksDetermine what the triggers are for your panic attacks. Do you have a panic attack every time you turn in a project at work? Do you have a panic attack late at night after you’ve seen a scary film? By figuring out situations that seem to bring these attacks on, you can learn to avoid them and hopefully the attacks too.

When you have a panic attack sit down and figure out how it’s making you feel at the moment. On a scale from one to ten to rate your feelings. Wait for a while and then rate your anxiety again. Continue until your anxiety is back to a zero.

Keep in mind as you have a panic attack that everyone has problems, and that everyone has an off day. Even the rich and famous have negative situations, and their’s are plastered on the front of papers around the world! Nothing is so bad that it’s worth letting yourself get worked up over it. Channel that energy into solving problems instead.

One thing that may help you feel a little better about your anxiety and panic attack is to understand that everyone at one point in their life will experience some sort of panic attack. Whether it be a mild or chronic attack, everyone will experience the fear and panic that is anxiety.

Get past a panic attack by speaking positively to yourself and thinking calming thoughts. Know that the panic attack won’t last forever. Repeat to yourself that everything is fine and you are in control.

When you begin to feel anxiety, make sure that you do something. Turn on the TV or start writing in a journal. Do not just sit there and let your symptoms get the best of you. When in doubt, do something to occupy your mind to you can relax a bit.

There are some causes of panic attacks which are preventable. For example, if no one in your family has a history of panic attacks, then you might want to get tested for chemical imbalances like hypoglycemia or hyperthyroidism.

Also, if you are prone to panic attacks then avoid stimulants like alcohol caffeine and nicotine which can amplify feelings of panic or anxiety. Drop the smoking and drink warm tea to help relax your body and mind, especially a non-caffeinated herbal tea or green tea. Green tea is excellent for your all round health too!

Prevention Through Understanding Panic Attacks

understanding panic attacksFor 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.

Participating in deep breathing a few times a day can help keep your body relaxed and free from panic attacks. Start by breathing through your nose to your stomach on a slow count of four, and then breathe out through your mouth for four. Increase to five, six, and beyond as you can.

Exercising on a regular basis can also help you to control the amount of panic attacks you have. Panic attacks often come from a build up of stress. Exercise has proven to be a great stress reliever and can help to cut back on the number of panic attacks you have.

If you take medicine to help with your anxiety, is important that you do not stop taking your medicine because you think that you are cured. If you do this, you may revert back to your old anxious ways. Try to follow through to the end of your medication period.

To distract yourself from the panicky feelings that occur during an attack, try progressive relaxation. Tense and release each muscle group from your toes to your head, and try to focus on the sensations in your muscles. This prevents you from clenching your muscles and gives you something relaxing to do as you wait for the panicky sensation to subside.

Determine what the triggers are for your panic attacks. Do you have a panic attack every time you turn in a project at work? Do you have a panic attack late at night after you’ve seen a scary film? By figuring out situations that seem to bring these attacks on, you can learn to avoid them and hopefully the attacks too.

If you are beginning to feel some stress and feel a panic attack coming on, cup your hands and put them over your nose and mouth as you breathe. This action will simulate the action of breathing into a paper bag but is a lot more discrete.

If you can’t have a pet of your own, consider asking a friend who has one if you can visit often to spend time with them. Maybe they’ll let you take their dog for a walk, or groom their cat. You can do them a favor and you’ll get the reward of calmness to keep your panic attacks at bay.

Avoid feelings of dread about future events. Worrying that something bad may happen will only make present situations worse. Your anxious feelings can often be attributed to what you think will happen as a result of a given situation. Do not dwell on what might be and focus on the present and making the best outcome for your current issue.

Sometimes we’re so worried about having a panic attack while driving that we can start clenching up some unusual muscles in the body, for example your behind. Tighten the muscles in your bum ten times in a row so your body literally moves up and down to help relax them and avoid painful cramps.

Focus on something that you have control over. If you find yourself in the midst of a panic attack, separate your mind from the situation. Focus on something that you can control – think about your family members, think about something funny that has happened to you recently, plan tonight’s meal in your mind – anything that will prevent you from thinking about the panic that you are feeling. Quite often you will find that this reduces the length of the attack.

Panic Attacks – The Facts And Data

It is estimated that up to 11% of adults will have a panic attack each year. That said, for many it is a one off event and only a small percentage will go on to develop a panic disorder. The NIMH actually report that 2.7% of adults suffered from panic disorder in the last year. It’s more than twice as prevelent in females (3.8%) thank males (1.6%). 

It’s also estimated that nearly 5% of us will experience acpanic attack at some stage in our lives with the highest risk age group being the 30-44 year category.

Of those who suffer from panic disorder in 44.8% of cases impairment will be serious, 29.5% moderate and for 25.7%  impairment will only be mild.



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Panic Attacks – Treatment Options

If you are unsure about how to handle your panic attacks, start with techniques for breathing and relaxation that help calm the body and mind. If you can control your breathing, then you can control your panic attacks. Read more – how to stop a panic attack when you feel it coming on.

During a panic attack focus on what is great about yourself. Remember what you’re good at, or things you’ve done for others lately. Maybe you’re a kind person, or you have great empathy. All of the things about you which are amazing are what makes you you, so embrace them!

If you take medicine to help with your anxiety, is important that you don’t stop taking your medicine because you think that you are cured. If you do this, you may revert back to your old anxious ways. Try to follow through to the end of your medication period. Remember that medication is only a part of the plan. If you use medication to deal with your anxiety, it is important that you also keep talking to your friends and family about how your regiment and problems are going. Always stay one step ahead of your anxiety and panic attacks.

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. For anxiety and panic attacks, Beat Your Fears suggest you consider a self-help panic attack treatment program – our recommendation is proven to cure your anxiety and panic attacks and prevent ever developing high anxiety or panic attacks again:

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.

Therapy & Self-Help

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. Find Out More >

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.

You should also consider Neuro-linguistic programming or NLP. Find Out More >

Hypnosis is also a widely used treatment option and one that we particularly endorse. Find Out More >

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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