Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing
With this uncommon treatment, your therapist leads you through a series of side-to-side eye movements as you talk about a troubling thought or memory. This is like the natural rapid eye movement that happens when you dream. Research shows it works for post-traumatic stress syndrome, and some doctors use it to treat panic attacks and phobias as well.
Know The Signs Of A Panic Attack
“Often, when you don’t know the physiological signs of a panic attack you may feel more scared imagining you’re having a heart attack,” says Annie Wright, LMFT and the owner and clinical director of Evergreen Counseling. “Read up on the signs of a panic attack so you know what you’re dealing with.”
Dr. Rodriguez recommends scouring the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website, which covers all the symptoms:
- Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate
- Derealization or depersonalization
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
Rodriguez adds that its critical to also get a physical exam to rule out other problems.
You Can Continue Going About Your Business During The Panic Attack
For those with severe panic attacks, the symptoms may stop them in their tracks. During more subtle panic attacks, however, coworkers and friends may not even realize they’re happening, since the person having the panic attack can continue going about their everyday tasks.
“I have worked with individuals that have experienced minor panic attacks when shopping,” licensed clinical social worker Ginger Poag, MSW, CEMDR, tells Bustle. “My clients have informed me that they could feel their heart begin to race, had an uneasy feeling and found it difficult to breathe. The individual experiencing this said that her symptoms decreased and eventually went away after a few minutes.” This kind of subtle panic attack may not be noticeable to others, but definitely still counts.
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I Knew Something Terribly Wrong Was Happening
J.T. Lewis, 58, Charlottesville, Va.
Courtesy J.T. Lewis
One morning almost 20 years ago, J.T. Lewis hailed a cab because she was late to work. As she settled into the back seat, Lewis noticed the car seemed unusually hot, dirty and cramped. The driver’s seat was so far back it seemed to be crushing her. She felt sweaty and light-headed.
“Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe, Lewis recalls. There was this crushing chest pain. I knew something was terribly wrong. Was I dying?”
The attack subsided after a few minutes, but Lewis was so shaken she had the driver drop her at her physician’s office. After a battery of tests, the doctor told her there was nothing physically wrong with her.
A few weeks later, Lewis, who frequently traveled for her job as a lawyer, had just buckled into first class on a plane when it happened again. The pressure in her chest. The feeling that she couldn’t breathe. Sweaty and pallid, she asked the flight attendant for some water.
The flight attendant took one look at her and instead had the pilot return the plane to the gate, so Lewis could get off. I was frustrated, confused and humiliated, Lewis said. I began avoiding business travel.”
After that, the panic attacks started happening more often. In the short run, medicine quelled her symptoms: Her doctor prescribed daily beta blockers plus Xanax for the moments when she felt an attack coming on .
Now retired from law practice, she hasn’t had a full-blown panic attack in years.
Why We Need To Make Sure People Understand The Difference
While conducting research for this article, we encountered more than a dozen mental health professionals who mistakenly believed the terms anxiety attack and panic attack were synonymous. They were licensed professionals, but none of them had a specialty in anxiety. Because anxiety attack is not a clinical term, they assumed it was a synonym for panic attack. This caused them to use the terms interchangeably, which can often confuse the issue even more.
People who deal with anxiety attacks or panic attacks often make similar mistakes. Some suffer from panic attacks but use the term anxiety attack to describe their symptoms and vice versa.
This confusion is why potential therapy clients and other anxiety sufferers need to educate themselves more on the topic or work with an anxiety specialist who really understands the differences. If you dont understand the terms and their differences, you might end up treating a panic disorder that you dont actually have. In the worst case scenario, you could even become dependent on a medication you dont need. Thats why its vital to seek out information about your specific condition and work with someone who is knowledgeable about the challenges that your unique condition presents. With luck, this article has been helpful in shedding some light on the differences between these similar terms!
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Coping With An Attack
During a panic attack, experts recommend reminding yourself that you arent in any danger. Carbonell suggested asking yourself: What Im experiencing now, is it danger or is it discomfort?
You should also try to remember that the attack is going to end, regardless of what you do, Gallagher said. Panic attacks typically peak at about 10 minutes.
Try not to take any immediate dramatic actions, such as fleeing the situation, experts said. Also, dont avoid similar situations in the future that will only reinforce the belief that its something really terrible and to be feared, said Lynn Bufka, a senior director at the American Psychological Association.
Instead, let the panic attack happen and let yourself accept everything youre feeling. As Carbonell points out, youre experiencing discomfort, not danger. You want to take actions that will help you stay in place and give the panic a chance to subside.
For example, if youre hyperventilating, you can try slow diaphragmatic, or belly, breathing, Bufka said.
Trott, the Illinois resident at the grocery store, was able to stay in place, as Carbonell recommends. He continued to shop albeit at a quicker pace. If I can bear it, I just keep moving and try to concentrate on what I need to get, he said.
Slow Deep Breathing Is Key But You Should Practice Every Day
Long, deep breaths calm your body down, but they can be tricky to implement if youre not used to doing them. Dr. Schaeffer suggests that to make this practice easier, you should do it daily anxious or not.
Practice full-body breathing every day, he tells NBC News BETTER. Breathe in deeply through your nose and imagine your whole body filling up with air like a balloon. Next, make your mouth small like you are exhaling through a straw. Slowly exhale through your mouth until you feel like all the air has completely emptied from your body. Repeat this about 10 times and notice any changes in your heart rate or body tension. Once you are comfortable with this kind of breathing, use it during a panic attack to slow your heart rate and calm down.
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What Is It Like To Have Panic Disorder
One day, without any warning or reason, a feeling of terrible anxiety came crashing down on me. I felt like I couldnt get enough air, no matter how hard I breathed. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I thought I might die. I was sweating and felt dizzy. I felt like I had no control over these feelings and like I was drowning and couldnt think straight.
After what seemed like an eternity, my breathing slowed and I eventually let go of the fear and my racing thoughts, but I was totally drained and exhausted. These attacks started to occur every couple of weeks, and I thought I was losing my mind. My friend saw how I was struggling and told me to call my doctor for help.
Write Out The Facts And Mantras On An Index Card And Keep It On You
One of the tools that has helped me is knowing that even the most vicious panic attack cant kill me. Dr. Rodriguez recommends writing this fact down on an index card or in your phone to read when you feel one coming on. Panic attacks are not life-threatening, she says. Write this down. And maybe add the note to yourself, You have survived panic attacks before. You will survive this one.
Dr. Prakash Masand, founder of the Center for Psychiatric Excellence, recommends writing down some positive mantras to get you out of a catastrophic thought pattern. Or better yet, prepare your own. When you have the negative thoughts of gloom and doom, write down some positive and more realistic rebuttals.
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Can A Panic Attack Affect Your Quality Of Life
Although panic attacks themselves arent life-threatening, they can be frightening and significantly affect your quality of life. But treatment can be very effective. Panic attacks typically begin suddenly, without warning. They can strike at any time when youre driving a car, at the mall, sound asleep or in the middle of a business meeting.
Can A Person Have A Heart Attack And Not Feel It
With SMI, you may feel discomfort in the center of the chest and not a sharp pain on the left side of the chest, which many people associate with a heart attack. People can even feel completely normal during an SMI and afterward, too, which further adds to the chance of missing the warning signs, says Dr. Plutzky.
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What Should You Do If You Have A Panic Attack
Panic attacks are common, with almost 23% of a people from a large US study of the general population reporting at least one panic attack during their lives. Panic attacks are more common in females than males. They are also more common in family members of people with panic disorder.
Panic attacks are more common among people who believe symptoms of anxiety are dangerous and harmful, rather than annoying and uncomfortable. They are also more likely if you are under emotional pressure, have been ill, are tired, are hungover or smoke.
As many of the symptoms of panic attack are physical and can be caused by a number of physical conditions, the first thing to do if you have symptoms like the ones described here is to see your doctor to check whether there is a medical reason for the symptoms.
If the symptoms are due to panic, then there are effective psychological approaches for controlling panic attacks. These focus on:
monitoring and slowing breathing, as overbreathing causes many panic sensations
correcting the interpretations about what the symptoms mean by looking at the things we say to ourselves before, during and after a panic attack. It is very important to remember the symptoms are just anxiety and are not life-threatening.
There is useful information about panic attack and how to cope with it available through Lifeline.
Let Go Of Needing To Know The Cause Of Anxiety
A reason anxiety increases when we struggle to answer the elusive question “why” is because in searching for that answer, we become caught up in anxiety. We expend a whole lot of time and negative energy fighting.
Even more important, when we are consumed in trying to find an anxiety cause we are anxious, we become hyper-focused on anxiety. The concepts that are receiving the brunt of our attention are anxiety, worry, fear, panic, and the like.
When we hold on to the need to know why we are holding onto anxiety itself because that is what we are thinking about. Chances are, those thoughts are not peaceful. To reduce the grip of this vague anxiety, it’s important to let go of the need to know the anxiety cause. We don’t have to enjoy anxiety, but we can be at peace with the fact that there’s no apparent cause for it.
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How Do I Know When My Anxiety Needs Treatment
Any time a mental health issue such as anxiety gets so far out of hand that it disrupts your daily life, its time to get help. Especially if one or more symptoms cause you a lot of distress and worry, you should seek treatment before your symptoms get worse.
Most mental health disorders exist on a spectrum. For some people, symptoms are less severe and respond well to outpatient treatment. But for many others, its going to take intensive treatment to make headways into recovery. Particularly if youve tried outpatient therapy and it hasnt worked, residential treatment could be your best option.
But how do you know when your anxiety is severe and lasting enough to qualify as an actual disorder? Its impossible to pinpoint without a clinician, but you can learn to spot the same signs a clinician would look for.
What Causes Anxiety
Anxiety can have many root causes, and knowing them can help learn how to handle anxiety in a more comprehensive way.
The Fight-or-Flight Response
While an anxiety attack may feel debilitating, it is actually the bodys natural response to danger. The fight-or-flight response is activated rapidly by the amygdala, which is the brains threat detection center. This response happens suddenly and without warning to help you respond quickly to danger.
However, the system may become overactive when you have a history of trauma, an abundance of stress, or excessive fears about the future. Your brain may become hypersensitive to potential threats and detect danger everywhere. As a result, seemingly harmless objects, places, or people may trigger sudden and intense panic.
Psychological studies have also determined that fear and anxiety may be conditioned. For example, pairing a neutral stimulus with a negative experience may lead to the neutral stimulus becoming associated with fear.
Stated in simpler terms: a non-threatening situation, person, or object may become threatening after it is paired with anxiety.
For example, if you experience a panic attack while driving, you may start to associate driving with panic. As a result, driving may become a negative experience and general source of panic attacks.
Medical Conditions, Genetics, Stress, or Trauma
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When To Get Help
See a GP if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of panic disorder.
They’ll ask you to describe your symptoms, how often you get them, and how long you have had them.
They may also carry out a physical examination to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.
It can sometimes be difficult to talk about your feelings, emotions and personal life, but try not to feel anxious or embarrassed.
You may be diagnosed with panic disorder if you have regular and unexpected panic attacks followed by at least a month of continuous worry or concern about having further attacks.
You May Feel Fine Just Before It
If you’re having a subtle panic attack, it may feel like it is coming out of nowhere. This sensation may be because more serious panic attacks tend to occur when your body is already under significant stress.
“Things like hunger, anger, loneliness, feeling tired or stressed can make the panic sensations more difficult to control,” Dr. Sarangasays. If you’re having a subtle panic attack, then, it may be because your system is feeling stronger in the moment.
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What Are The Signs Of A Panic Attack
Panic attacks can happen quite quickly and at any time. A panic attack can last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour. During the attack, people can feel totally overwhelmed and disabled. Symptoms include:
- intense and overwhelming feelings of panic or fear
- increased heart rate
- dizziness, light-headedness or numbness in hands, arms or feet
- feeling like youre dying, choking, or losing control
- feeling detached from your surroundings, or that the world around you isnt real.
Causes Of Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Although the exact causes of panic attacks and panic disorder are unclear, the tendency to have panic attacks runs in families. There also appears to be a connection with major life transitions such as graduating from college and entering the workplace, getting married, or having a baby. Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss can also trigger panic attacks.
Panic attacks can also be caused by medical conditions and other physical causes. If youre suffering from symptoms of panic, its important to see a doctor to rule out the following possibilities:
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What Is Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder where people have repeated panic attacks plus one of the following:
- Persistent worry about having more panic attacks and the effects those attacks could have
- Negative changes in behavior because of the attack such as avoiding a location where you experienced a panic attack
You can have a panic attack without having or developing panic disorder. A panic attack is a single event. Panic disorder is when these unexpected panic attacks happen multiple times and the concerns of having another one greatly impact your day-to-day activities.
How To Cope With A Panic Attack
If you or someone you know is experiencing a panic attack, psychologist Sabina Read suggests:
- using relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, focusing on something outside your body like a tree blowing in the wind, or trying 3 repeats of counting backwards from 100.
- reminding yourself that although the symptoms are uncomfortable, theyre not life-threatening, the panic attack will end, and the feelings will pass.
- avoiding fleeing from the situation and talking yourself out of having the feelings of panic. By allowing the attack to pass on its own, youll feel more confident you can handle the symptoms if it happens again.
Now I know the feelings before they start, I focus on things around me and take really deep breaths, says Claire. If that doesnt work, Ill find a crunchy food like a biscuit and the motion from my jaw and the noise can help lessen the impact.
To prevent panic attacks some strategies are:
- doing regular mindfulness or meditation
- exercising regularly
- talking to a friend or loved one about how youre feeling
- practicing breathing exercises so when you feel panic rising you can ease symptoms before they become severe
I wish my parents encouraged more conversations, Gen says. I wish they suggested going for a walk or for a drive to initiate conversation. I think if wed had more conversations, I would have known I could be vulnerable with them.
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