Are Panic Attacks Dangerous
You wont die from a panic attack. But you might feel like youre dying when youre having one. Thats because many panic attack symptoms, like chest pain, are similar to those experienced with serious medical conditions like a heart attack.
Sometimes, you might not be able to tell the difference between the symptoms of a panic attack and another condition. In those situations, you should seek immediate medical attention. However, knowing your panic attack triggers and any medical conditions that you might have can help you distinguish a panic attack from an acute medical problem.
Some medical conditions are more common in people who have panic attacks than in people who dont. One reason for this is that panic attacks and certain medical conditions share risk factors. For example, exposure to a stressful life event is a risk factor for developing panic attacks and certain heart conditions.
Here are some medical conditions common in people who have panic attacks:
For most people, one or two panic attacks at some point in your life wont cause long-term issues. But repeated panic attacks can contribute to physical problems such as sleep disturbances or heart conditions.
Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia was traditionally thought to involve a fear of public places and open spaces. However, it is now believed that agoraphobia develops as a complication of panic attacks and panic disorder. Although it can develop at any point, agoraphobia usually appears within a year of your first recurrent panic attacks.
If youre agoraphobic, youre afraid of having a panic attack in a situation where escape would be difficult or embarrassing. You may also be afraid of having a panic attack where you wouldnt be able to get help. Because of these fears, you start avoiding more and more situations.
For example, you may begin to avoid:
- Crowded places such as shopping malls or sports arenas.
- Cars, airplanes, subways, and other forms of travel.
- Social gatherings, restaurants, or other situations where it would be embarrassing to have a panic attack.
- Physical exercise in case it triggers panic.
- Certain food or drinks that could provoke panic, such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, or specific medications.
- Going anywhere without the company of someone who makes you feel safe. In more severe cases, you might only feel safe at home.
What Is Sleep Anxiety
Sleep anxiety is a type of performance anxiety that involves a cycle of anxious thoughts before going to bed, many of which involve unease, nervousness, and worry. While there are dozens of tasks to occupy your cognitive functions during the day, your brain can often struggle to keep itself busy at night, thus resorting to any anxious emotions and thoughts. Anxiety can lead to an endless cycle of stress and poor sleep. If you often experience nighttime anxiety, it may be hard to tell whether youre having trouble sleeping because youre anxious or youre feeling anxious because you cant sleep. According to research, sleep and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Having anxiety can cause sleeping problems and make it difficult to sleep, but sleep deprivation can also trigger anxiety. If youre unable to sleep, you may dread going to bed and waking up feeling even more sleep deprived. UC Berkeley researchers suggest that the lack of sleep can ramp up regions in the brain that trigger excessive worry, which provokes further anxiety and makes sleep even more elusive
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Reason #: Too Much Focus On The Day
Nighttime anxiety can be caused by over-focusing on stress before sleep. Knott says that this is because our body can perceive work stress, relationship issues, and social contact as dangerous, and prepare us to fight or flee. Being fixated on your worries during the day and anticipating stressful activities for the next day will make it more difficult for your mind to relax.
Sleep Apnea And Daytime Panic Attacks How Theyre Linked And What You Can Do About It
Panic attacks and sleep apnea both make daily life hard. They can also play off of each other and make a bad situation worse.
Panic attacks can hurt sleep while sleep apnea can increase your risk for day time panic attacks. Good news if youre dealing with sleep apnea and daytime panic attacks theres a lot you can do for both.
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What Is A Nocturnal Panic Attack
At its most basic, a nocturnal panic attack is just that: a panic attack that happens at night. Sometimes known as sleep or nighttime panic attacks, a nocturnal panic attack occurs in lighter stages of sleep without any obvious triggers and often wakes the person up from their slumber, says Alex Dimitriu, M.D., founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine. And unlike when you wake up from a nightmare, “there will be no recall of the dream” or what was making you panic while catching Z’s, he explains.
Just like daytime episodes, nocturnal panic attacks typically fall under the panic disorder category, says psychiatrist Leela Magavi, M.D. ICYDK, panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear that can technically occur at any time, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. These episodes are typically accompanied by physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, or abdominal distress. All of the above can occur during a nocturnal panic attack, but these nighttime occurrences can also involve sweating, trembling, chills, and a sense of impending doom, according to the Mayo Clinic. While daytime panic attacks “may sometimes have a clear trigger, it’s not always clear what leads to a nocturnal panic attack,” says Dr. Dimitru. However, “having panic attacks by day, and elevated anxiety and stress, will predispose people to nighttime panic attacks.”
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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How To Stop Anxiety And Panic
Of course, even if you reduce the frequency of your nighttime panic attacks, you are still going to find yourself suffering if you continue to deal with panic disorder. That’s why you need to make sure that you find the appropriate long term treatment for reducing the frequency and severity of your panic attacks and doing whatever it takes to prevent them from coming back.
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Why Do Sleep Panic Attacks Occur
As Dr. Bea mentioned before, the cause of nighttime panic attacks is relatively unknown, but it seems like theyre a manifestation of stress.
Sleep panic attacks might reflect other stressors arousal in the body. Its believed that this stress can be transmitted through genetic predispositions. This just tells you that our brains and bodies are active even when were sleeping.
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When To Seek Medical Attention
The first time one experiences a panic attack, one should seek medical attention promptly in order to check oneâs overall physical and mental health and discuss the possibility and prevention of future panic attacks.
It is not uncommon for an individual, who has experienced a panic attack, to feel embarrassment in telling their family or doctor. Many people are unaware of how common it is to experience a panic attack and/or that it could relate to panic disorder or another form of anxiety â conditions, which are highly treatable with appropriate psychotherapy and/or medication.
Even if one is not diagnosed with a mental health condition, oneâs doctor will be able to advise on management techniques in the event that a future panic attack occurs and will be able to perform check-ups to rule out other conditions or health concerns. For example, one may be screened to rule out the risk of a heart attack, particularly if one believed that one was experiencing a heart attack during the episode.
A Whats A Panic Attack
Youre on your way to meet up with friends and all of a sudden you get an overwhelming wave of fear for no reason at all
Or maybe, youre at work and suddenly your heart starts pounding, you cant seem to get enough air, and you get that feeling that something really bad is about to happen
If you or someone you know has experienced something like this, it might have been a panic attack.
People with panic attacks experience sudden periods of intense fear even when there is no real danger. It may include heart palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, and a feeling that something bad is going to happen.
The attacks may last for several minutes or longer. If it happens repeatedly you may be dealing with an anxiety disorder known as panic disorder.
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What To Do If The Fear Robs You Of Sleep
- Were you overrun by a panic attack in your sleep for no apparent reason?
- No nightmare or other incident that could have woken you, and yet you are awake?
- You feel seized by an inner turmoil and fear that you can not explain yourself?
- The chest feels tight, the heart is racing, the breath is too fast and uneven?
- You could not sleep through the night and the next nights are agony because of this memory?
- Are you really afraid to go to sleep at night?
If you feel addressed by the scenario described above, you have probably experienced a panic attack while sleeping. But what is a panic attack and how is it caused? And, by far the most important question:
How can you handle them and even avoid them from happening again in the future? But before you address these questions, you need to start with the basics. Then you get a panic attack emergency aid.
How Can You Get Help If Youre Having Repeated Panic Attacks
If you are having repeated panic attacks, tell a healthcare provider or a mental health professional. Unfortunately, many people dont tell their provider about their attacks and suffer needlessly. There are treatments that can help you feel better.
If you dont have a psychiatrist or therapist, a healthcare provider might recommend that you see one. A therapist will talk with you about your symptoms to help you better understand and manage them.
Common therapies for panic attacks include cognitive behavioral therapy, supportive therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. In cognitive behavioral therapy, a therapist will help you manage your anxiety by slowly confronting your triggers in a safe and supportive setting. In supportive and psychodynamic therapies, you might explore the sources of your stress or triggers and identify better ways of coping.
If your symptoms are severe, your provider might also recommend that you try an anti-anxiety medication. Examples include , , and . These medications help by decreasing both the physical sensations and emotional reactions you experience during a panic attack. Some people take an anti-anxiety medication and participate in therapy.
If you are already seeing a provider for a mental health disorder or medical condition, dont assume that they know about your panic attacks. Panic attacks often go undetected even if you have a condition that they are commonly seen with. Talk to your healthcare provider about all of your symptoms.
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Other Things To Help With Anxiety And Cpap Panic Attacks
If you find that your CPAP panic attack symptoms are pretty serious, you may be dealing with something more serious like panic disorder, especially if its happening at other times besides at night.
Keep in mind youre not the only one as anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the US alone. Unfortunately, only a third of people suffering receive treatment according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Regardless of how serious your panic attacks are, keep in mind that anxiety is treatable.
Weve already mentioned psychotherapy counseling.
Some of the other things that can help include:
Lifestyle changes Avoid substances such as alcohol, caffeine, and chemical substances and/or habituated behaviors that can trigger or worsen panic anxiety.
Exercise Light to moderate aerobic exercise has been shown to help with anxiety. Learn more
Relaxation exercises Deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, and muscle relaxation techniques have been used to help with panic attacks
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We are learning more about the connection between food, mood, and anxiety. Anti-anxiety nutrition therapy is growing in popularity as a way to manage anxiety.
They focus on avoiding processed foods containing simple carbs and eating a balanced diet rich with nutrients. Learn more
Natural remedies Herbal supplements that contain kava have been found to be helpful for some people with mild to moderate panic disorder. Learn more
Avoid Lying In Bed Awake
If youre lying in bed for more than 20 minutes and still cant fall asleep, it might be time to give yourself a do-over. While it may feel counterintuitive, Lawson suggests leaving your bedroom to do a sleep-inducing activity, like having a cup of tea or reading a book. This conditioning, known as stimulus control, can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
If youre going to try stimulus control, its important to remove yourself from your bedroom environment. This helps give you a mental reset when you try to fall asleep again.
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Get Up Stand Up Wake Up
If you’ve just been awakened by a nocturnal panic attack, the chances of your quickly falling asleep again are pretty low. If you want, give yourself a minute to see if you’re lucky enough for that to occur, but I wouldn’t wait any longer than that. The longer you lie there and wonder, the more panic and frustration you’ll probably experience.
So I suggest you get up and out of bed. Fully wake yourself. Splash some water on your face, have a drink of water, check on the dog, cat, or parakeet. Do a few ordinary things to help yourself wake up. A nocturnal panic attack is not the same thing as a nightmare, but you can treat it like one.
Don’t turn on the TV, start reading, or try other things in an effort to fall right back asleep. A lot of people try to distract themselves from a nocturnal attack, but I don’t put much stock in this, because distraction works best when it’s spontaneous. With a nocturnal panic attack, you’re liable to try too hard to distract yourself, and get into a struggle with your thoughts. If distraction is going to help, it should help right away. Give it a minute, at most.
Write Down Your Worries On Paper
According to Juanita Wells, director of clinical development at New Method Wellness, putting your thoughts down on paper can help us remain accountable to ourselves, our feelings, our purpose, and plan.
Instead of letting thoughts and to-dos swirl around in your brain, write them down so that your brain has a game plan for the following day. Wells says that writing down your anxious feelings, especially through stream-of-consciousness journaling , can help ease anxiety before bed.
In addition to calming pre-bedtime anxiety, research shows that journaling can also help you fall asleep more quickly. To get started journaling, just snuggle up with your notebook and some cozy pillows and let your thoughts take it away.
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What Are Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are sudden, unexpected episodes of intense anxiety, which can cause a variety of frightening symptoms. These include:
- Feeling out of control and disconnected from your surroundings
- Feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
- Chest pains and shortness of breath – a tightness of the chest and feeling as though its a struggle to breathe
- A racing or pounding heart
- Numbness and tingling, for example, tingling lips and numbness in your fingers and toes
- Fluctuating body temperature feeling very hot or very cold
These symptoms can be so severe they sometimes make first time sufferers believe theyre experiencing a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. Over time, panic attacks can become more frequent, and the fear of having a panic attack becomes embedded, resulting in a vicious circle.
Night time panic attacks, also known as nocturnal panic attacks or night terrors, happen while youre asleep and wake you up, often with the same symptoms as day time panic attacks. However, while these nocturnal attacks usually only last for a few minutes, it can take a long time for you to calm down enough to go back to sleep after having one. This, coupled with worrying about whether youre going to have another panic attack, may lead to insomnia.
Who Might Experience Nocturnal Panic Attacks
While they can happen to anyone , some people are more predisposed to experiencing nocturnal panic attacks, including:
- Those who suffer from PTSD-related nightmares. “Individuals with PTSD may have nightmares about their trauma these nightmares essentially replay what they endured,” which may cause them to wake up “in a frightened state as they feel like they are reliving this trauma,” explains Dr. Magavi. The nightmares could “lead to panic attacks while they are sleeping.”
- People who have general anxiety and panic disorder. “About 18 percent of panic attacks will occur during the night,” adds Dr. Dimitriu, who says that nocturnal panic attacks are “common in people who also experience daytime panic attacks.”
- Those with sleep disorders. “Sleep apnea can result in sudden awakening due to inability to breathe, which could cause sweating, palpitations, and panic attacks,” says Dr. Magavi. “Sleep-initiation and sleep-maintenance can cause panic attacks as individuals begin to experience significant anxiety when they are unable to sleep.”
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