Panic Disorder Symptoms Causes And Effects
If you are suddenly experiencing an episode of intense anxiety and fear that sets off physical reactions with no apparent reason, you have an episode called a panic attack. Multiple occurrences of this extremely common health issue are indicative of panic disorder, which can be very problematic and frightening. Constant fears of going crazy, having a heart attack or dying are just some examples of panicked thoughts that may disrupt your everyday activities.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 6 million American adults have been diagnosed with panic disorder. With proper knowledge and finding the right treatment, you or someone you know who suffers from this disorder can overcome the symptoms and regain healthy living.
Why Are You Anxious
Before we can begin to help you get over that constant feeling of dread, trepidation and nervousness, we need to know how and when it started. Then you can be clear about how best you can help yourself.
Have you always suffered?Did it appear out of the blue?Did it start after some kind of trauma?Has it built up over time and you now have chronic anxiety?Does it come on in waves?Do you often feel youre anxious for no real reason?
It makes a big difference whether or not the onset of your anxiety is due to a sudden event.
Whats The Outlook For People With Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders can often go undiagnosed and untreated. Fortunately, treatment can help. The right treatment can help improve your quality of life, relationships and productivity. It can also support your overall well-being.
You dont need to live with constant worry and fear. If you notice symptoms of an anxiety disorder, talk to your healthcare provider. Its best to get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Doing so can limit the problems that anxiety disorders can cause. Often, a combination of medications and counseling for anxiety can help you feel your best.
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Ways To Enlist The Help Of Your Spouse Or Partner
How Do You Know Youre Having A Panic Attack
An anxiety or panic attack often comes on suddenly, with symptoms peaking within 10 minutes. For doctors to diagnose a panic attack, they look for at least four of the following signs: sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, a choking sensation, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, fear of losing your mind, fear of dying, feeling hot or cold, numbness or tingling, a racing heart , and feeling unusually detached from yourself.
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Reasons Anxiety Can Be Your Friend
Part of doing nothing to fight the panic means redirecting your awareness back towards whatever else you are actually doing in the present moment. You may not be able to stop yourself from noticing when these feelings are coming up, but when you do catch yourself noticing and focusing on them, you can work on giving them less attention.
Remember, the best thing to do with a feeling is to just feel it.
That’s how you keep the panic from stopping you from engaging in life and that’s how panic actually gets better in the long run, as your brain learns that it is okay to feel panic. Once it learns that, there is nothing to be hypervigilant about and panic naturally subsides over time.
How Do You Stop A Panic Attack
Many people try to stop a panic attack in the wrong way. Its natural to distract yourself, avoid places you have had a panic attack before or take extra precautions to help you stay in control. While these strategies can give you temporary relief, they dont get rid of your panic attacks.
It seems counterintuitive, but the best solution is to let yourself feel the fear. Avoidance makes it worse because you get a rebound effect from suppressing it. The anxiety comes back more frequently and with higher intensity.
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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.
What Is A Panic Attack
Panic attacks are a type of fear response. They’re an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to danger, stress or excitement. This page covers:
“My teeth would chatter uncontrollably and my whole body would tremble, I’d hyperventilate and cry with panic as the feeling that I was going to fall unconscious was so convincing.”
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Where Do I Go From Here
The best first step is always to talk to your doctor. They can help you decide which, if any, of the above treatments would be best for you.
Other helpful resources are:
AnxietyBCVisit www.anxietybc.com or call 604-525-7566 for community resources and lots of helpful information about panic disorder and other anxiety disorders, including strategies to try at home.
Canadian Mental Health Association, BC DivisionVisit www.cmha.bc.ca or call 1-800-555-8222 or 604-688-3234 for information and community resources.
BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions InformationVisit www.heretohelp.bc.ca for info sheets and personal stories about . Youll also find more information, tips and self-tests to help you understand many different mental health problems
Resources available in many languages:*For the service below, if English is not your first language, say the name of your preferred language in English to be connected to an interpreter. More than 100 languages are available.
HealthLink BCCall 811 or visit www.healthlinkbc.ca to access free, non-emergency health information for anyone in your family, including mental health information. Through 811, you can also speak to a registered nurse about symptoms youre worried about, or talk with a pharmacist about medication questions.
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How Can I Prevent Panic Attacks
Your healthcare provider can help you identify triggers that bring on panic attacks. During psychotherapy, you learn strategies to manage triggering events and prevent an attack. You can also take these actions to lower your odds of having a panic attack:
- Cut back on caffeine.
- Talk to your doctor before taking herbal supplements or over-the-counter medications. Certain substances can increase anxiety.
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What To Do During A Panic Attack
There are strategies that you can learn to help you to cope with an unexpected panic attack, including the following:
- As you are likely to hyperventilate during a panic attack, stop whatever you are doing when you feel one coming on , close your eyes and focus on your breathing. During these moments, breathe in for three seconds, hold the breath for two seconds and then breathe out again for three seconds, taking deeper breaths than usual. Getting back in control of your breathing can help you to stop the panic attack from intensifying or lasting longer.
- Learn and use positive mantras such as this is just my anxiety and these feelings will pass to stop your panic cycle. Panic attacks can cause you to think that you are going to collapse, have a heart attack or that you are going to lose control, which can result in you panicking even further. Having positive, factual and simple mantras to hand can help you to address and challenge your anxious thoughts so that you can alleviate the panic attack.
- Distract yourself from your negative thoughts by shifting your focus from your panic attack onto your surroundings. Concentrate on one thing that is in your eye line, whether that is a vase, a plant, or a building. Allowing yourself to think about its colour, texture, shape and size can help you to calm your mind and relieve you from your panicked thoughts.
How To Teach Your Children About Anxiety Or Panic Attacks
Anxiety attacks usually last for about 10-15 minutes however it can feel like a lifetime for both you and your child. After your child has his or her first panic attack, it is important to educate them on the signs and symptoms associated with panic attacks so if another one occurs, they can understand what is happening. Teach your children that panic attacks are a false alarm in their bodies. Let them know the physical sensations associated with a panic attack so that when they experience them, it wont be as scary.
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How To Calm Anxiety Or Panic Attacks
There are a number of ways you can face anxiety or panic attacks. There are many holistic things you can do to help calm yourself down, like simple lifestyle changes, for example. Experts have many other coping techniques they can share with you too.
Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, LCSW-C, CMHIMP, EMDR, has some great ideas.
You can calm anxiety or panic attacks by learning to recognize the symptoms and practicing the following:
- Acknowledging that youre experiencing an episode and reminding yourself that it will not last forever
- Practicing deep breathing, including the 4-7-8 breathing exercise
- Doing a quick body scan, asking yourself where the anxiety is felt, and releasing it by shaking that body part
- Talking to your anxiety and permitting it to stay for a bit, but reminding it that it has to leave
- Practicing, meditation, mindfulness, or Tai Chi
- Practicing Creative Visualization, where you imagine yourself in a calm and happy place like the beach or a mountain for a minute or 2, and then continue with your daily activities
Keep in mind that there is hope a professional can treat both issues. Remind yourself about this when you want to feel calm.
An anxiety or panic attack may also be treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or anti-anxiety medication. A panic attack can also be treated with CBT or with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other antidepressants.
Panic Drugs: Possible Options
Doctor sometimes prescribe antidepressants to address the issue of recurring panic attacks, although these drugs take a couple of weeks to take effect. Alternately, you may be prescribed benzodiazepines. These drugs can bring quick results and may provide a speedy recovery from ongoing panic attacks.
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Possible Medical Reasons For Anxiety
A useful mnemonic device, THINC MED, developed by Georgetown University psychiatrist Robert Hedeya, MD, helps doctors determine potential medical causes of anxiety:
T : Brain tumors cause a wide range of psychological symptoms, including anxiety, personality changes and hallucinations, along with physical symptoms. Adrenal gland tumors produce excess adrenaline, which can trigger anxiety, along with headache.
H : Thyroid problems are among the most common medical causes of anxiety, either because the gland is overactive or underactive . Parathyroid and adrenal gland conditions can trigger anxiety, too. The female hormone estrogen can also prompt anxiety when the menstrual cycle fluctuates and during menopause.
I :Lyme disease from tick bite infections can trigger anxiety and other psychological symptoms. Untreated Strep infections can cause the neurological tics sometimes seen with anxiety disorders. Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can follow a viral infection, may trigger anxiety as well .
N : The symptoms of vitamin deficiency/overload, malabsorption and poor nutrition can mimic emotional disorders. For example, anxiety may be the first symptom of B12 deficiency.
C : Head trauma, even when mild, can trigger anxiety and other psychological symptoms. Anxiety is also seen with chronic or progressive neurological conditions, such as Alzheimers, myasthenia gravis and Guillain-Barre.
Some People May Develop Panic Disorders
For many people, the feelings of panic occur only occasionally during periods of stress or illness. A person who experiences recurring panic attacks is said to have panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder. They generally have recurring and unexpected panic attacks and persistent fears of repeated attacks.
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Who Does It Affect
While panic disorder can affect anyone, there are certain groups of people that it affects more often than others.
Women: Like most other anxiety disorders, women are twice as likely as men to experience panic disorder.
Young adults: Panic disorder usually appears in your mid-twenties, although it can happen at any age. Three quarters of people with panic disorder experienced the onset before the age of 33. Although it can exist in kids, it’s often not diagnosed until they’re older.
People with a chronic illness: Three quarters of people with panic disorder report having at least one other diagnosed chronic physical or mental illness like diabetes or depression.
Family history: People with a family history of anxiety or depression are at greater risk for developing panic disorder.
Types Of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety attacks can stem from an anxiety disorder. There are several types of anxiety disorders. Below are three common anxiety disorders that lead to anxiety attacks:
Generalized anxiety disorder
This anxiety disorder is diagnosed in people that experience excessive anxiety or worry for more than 6 months. You may have many worries, like health, finances, relationships, or work.
This type of anxiety disorder is when you fear places or situations that may cause you panic. You will find yourself avoiding these situations that make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.
A panic disorder is diagnosed in people who have recurrent unexpected panic attacks. You may be in constant worry about when or how your next panic attack will occur.
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Anxiety Caused By Lifestyle Habits
Never underestimate the effect your lifestyle can have on your anxiety levels. For example, some research has shown that those that do not exercise are more prone to developing anxiety, because their body has unused energy, and because they start producing less stress-coping hormones.
Similarly, although diet does not traditionally cause significant anxiety, it can still play a role. Caffeine, for example, can exacerbate mild anxiety symptoms. Unhealthy foods can cause you to feel unhealthy, which in turn causes stress that leads to anxiety. Drug use is frequently a cause of anxiety.
This is why even with therapy and medicine, a change to lifestyle habits is often necessary.
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Panic Attacks Happen For A Reason
Panic attacks can come out of the blue, but you are probably stressed anyway. Avoidance is natural, but it increases your fear of having a panic attack.
You can get rid of panic attacks by learning to apply the brakes with relaxation or mindfulness meditation. These strategies are the first steps in your recovery.
The second part of panic treatment is to undertake fear-exposure. Inducing physical sensations, confronting the fear in your life and allowing the scary words and images to come into your mind. Your therapist can jointly support you throughout the exposure treatment.
Panic neednt keep ruling your life, and you can learn to shrink its adverse effect. It will take patience, persistence and practice. And I promise you that it will be worth it.
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What To Do When You Get A Panic Attack
Getting a panic attack can be scary. When a panic attack comes on, your focus should be on calming yourself down. During a panic attack, you can follow the steps below to manage your symptoms:
- Dont try to stop it from happening.Trying to stop your panic attack may only intensify your symptoms.
- Bring your focus to your breathing and slow it down. Take deep, controlled breaths and count them if that helps.
- Focus on other senses and sensations around you. You can hold on to something soft like a pillow or run your hands along something textured like a cardigan.
- Remember that you are not in danger. During the panic attack, remind yourself that the symptoms you are experiencing are not fatal and will soon pass.
After a panic attack, you might feel ashamed or silly. But, its important to remember that panic attacks are out of your control. Prioritizing self-care after a panic attack is also essential. Self-care can take the form of a day off from work, a long bath, or journaling. If you continue to stress over it, that might only trigger another one shortly after.