How Long Does Treatment Last
How long treatment continues depends on you. Stopping panic attacks completely is a reasonable goal. Your doctor will design a treatment plan just for you. A treatment period lasting at least 6 to 9 months is usually recommended. Some people taking medicine for panic disorder are able to stop treatment after only a short time. Other people need to continue treatments over a long period of time, or even for their lifetime.
What Is A Panic Disorder
A panic disorder is a form of anxiety thats characterized by sudden attacks of fear and worry that becomes overwhelming. It may also come with heart palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, and other physiological symptoms. In some cases, panic attacks occur without warning and with no apparent trigger, which can make you worry that another episode could strike at any moment. Because panic attacks can often cause physical symptoms, people that experience them for the first time may mistake them for a heart attack, which adds to their fear and worry. For some, panic attack symptoms peak within 10 minutes and start to go away. Others feel the most intense symptoms in the first 10 minutes and then experience lingering symptoms for hours.
Even people that know they are having a panic attack may not be able to soothe themselves, despite the fact that their fear isnt attached to any real or perceived danger. Because panic attacks are unpredictable, it can cause long-lasting anxiety symptoms between attacks as well. Panic attacks can happen once or a few times before going away, but a panic disorder is characterized by recurrent attacks. Panic disorders also cause persistent worry and changes in behavior.
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.
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What You Can Do About Your Anxiety Right Now
When you feel anxious, it may help to acknowledge the fact that youre anxious and consider the situation.
During times of stress and alarm, it can help to know your feelings of anxiety may pass once the stressful event is over.
Here are a few things you can do to help lower your anxiety in the moment:
- Reach out to someone you trust. Sometimes, talking things through can help you gain calm and relieve anxious thoughts.
- Say no if youve got too much on your plate and more is expected.
- Go for a walk. Try to be mindful of your surroundings and take long, deep breaths.
- Meditate, do some yoga exercises, practice deep breathing, or do other activities that have helped you to feel calm or centered before.
- Do something that helps you relax physically, such as soaking in a warm bath, playing soothing music, or enjoying aromatherapy.
There are also some things you can do to help reduce anxiety in the long term.
How Thought Challenging Works
To understand how thought challenging works in cognitive behavioral therapy, consider the following example: Maria wont take the subway because shes afraid shell pass out, and then everyone will think shes crazy. Her therapist has asked her to write down her negative thoughts, identify the errorsor cognitive distortionsin her thinking, and come up with a more rational interpretation. The results are below.
|Challenging Negative Thoughts|
|Negative thought #1: What if I pass out on the subway?|
|Cognitive distortion: Predicting the worst.|
More realistic thought: Ive never passed out before, so its unlikely that I will pass out on the subway.
|Negative thought #2: If I pass out, it will be terrible!|
|Cognitive distortion: Blowing things out of proportion.|
More realistic thought: If I faint, Ill come to in a few moments. Thats not so terrible.
|Negative thought #3: People will think Im crazy.|
|Cognitive distortion: Jumping to conclusions.|
More realistic thought: People are more likely to be concerned if Im okay.
Replacing negative thoughts with more realistic ones is easier said than done. Often, negative thoughts are part of a lifelong pattern of thinking. It takes practice to break the habit. Thats why cognitive behavioral therapy includes practicing on your own at home as well.
CBT may also include:
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Tell Yourself Youre Just Processing Information
When youre suffering from PTSD, panic attacks are so often you cant tell when youre actually having one. Youre in a constant state of fight or flight for months on end. Youre too scared to fall asleep and terrified while being awake. Eventually, when you do finally fall asleep, you wake up from nightmares that scare you awake. Sometimes they come as often as every ten minutes.
A social worker once told me that nightmares are the brains way of processing information. The best way to combat them is to say processing information every time you wake up from one. This little trick has helped desensitize nightmares over the long-term so you feel less panicked after waking up from one.
When To Seek Professional Help
While self-help coping strategies can be very effective, if your worries, fears, or anxiety attacks have become so great that theyre causing extreme distress or disrupting your daily routine, its important to seek professional help.
If youre experiencing a lot of physical symptoms, you should start by getting a medical checkup. Your doctor can check to make sure that your anxiety isnt caused by a medical condition, such as a thyroid problem, hypoglycemia, or asthma. Since certain drugs and supplements can cause anxiety, your doctor will also want to know about any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and recreational drugs youre taking.
If your physician rules out a medical cause, the next step is to consult with a therapist who has experience treating anxiety disorders. The therapist will work with you to determine the cause and type of your disorder and devise a course of treatment.
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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:
Get Off The Rollercoaster
You lose a job, your boyfriend dumps you, you get into a car accident, your product launch fails, your pet dies, you break a nail
Life has a habit of throwing a range of experiences at you that you dont see coming.
The ancient stoics had an interesting way of interpreting what we would call bad events. Rather than instantly label them as bad and letting your thoughts and feelings turn negative, instead look at these events as tools for growth.
The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor
Once again, perception is key. Events happen, you decide how you react. A bad thing is only bad if you decide it is.
Marcus Aurelius, famous founding father of Stoic Philosophy, reveals a dichotomy in life that at first can be very hard to see.
The seeds of your greatest growth opportunities, come from your greatest challenges.
As modern day author Ryan Holiday aptly titled his book on Stoicism, The Obstacle Is The Way.
As an anxious person who may be experiencing panic attacks, who defaults to negative frameworks, adopting this philosophy is a challenge. However, that challenge shows you the pathway to change.
During a very dark period for me when I was experiencing panic attacks and feeling very depressed, I went online looking for the answer to a big question
What is the meaning of life?
To find the answer, I typed the question into Google.
To put it simply, I decided to get off the rollercoaster.
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Change Your Beliefs To Master Emotion
When I first began the process of monitoring my thoughts and reframing them into positive interpretations of life events, I often felt like I was trying to fool myself.
My emotions were telling me the opposite of what I was trying to convince myself to think. I felt bad and no amount of better storytelling in my mind seemed to help.
This led to an important question
Were my thoughts controlling my emotions, or were my emotions controlling my thoughts?
This question has led to scientific experiments, caused books to be written, and countless discussions to occur.
The answer seems to lie somewhere in the middle. Both your thoughts and emotions interact and influence each other. However, our experience of emotion is much stronger than our experience of thought, so we tend to react much more to how we feel than how we think.
I initially struggled to implement thought reframing because I was trying to change the words in my head to positive when my feelings were negative.
This is when things got interesting
There was one other ingredient I had not considered yet:
It turns out that our feelings are really controlled by our beliefs. What we believe about our life is what we tend to feel.
In particular, what we believe about our future tends to dictate our happiness. If we believe our future is full of good things, we are happy in the present working towards them. If we dont believe there are good things coming, then we are sad, depressed, angry and frustrated.
When Should I Call The Doctor
Some panic attacks have signs that can be confused with a physical problem like a heart attack. If you have chest pain or trouble breathing or lose consciousness, seek emergency medical care.
You should call your healthcare provider if you have panic attacks and experience:
- Chronic anxiety that interferes with daily life.
- Difficulty concentrating.
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When Is Anxiety A Mental Health Problem
Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. For example, it may be a problem if:
- your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time
- your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation
- you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious
- your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control
- you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks
- you find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy.
If your symptoms fit a particular set of medical criteria then you might be diagnosed with a particular anxiety disorder. But it’s also possible to experience problems with anxiety without having a specific diagnosis. Our pages on self-care and treatment for anxiety offer suggestions for help and support.
Learn About Panic Attacks And Anxiety
Knowledge is power. With more information about panic attacks, you can be aware of your symptoms, feel more in control, and shorten your attacks.
While many people experience a panic attack just once or a few times, others experience them as part of an existing anxiety disorder. Learning about anxiety can help you better manage it.
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Can Panic Disorder Be Prevented Or Avoided
You cant prevent panic disorder because doctors arent sure what causes it. But you may be able to prevent a panic attack by knowing your triggers. Your doctor can help with that. He or she can help make sure your panic attacks dont become worse or more frequent. Its also a good idea to be physically active. Getting exercise is a known stress reliever and may also guard you against panic attacks.
When Should You Call A Doctor Or Help Line If You Are Having A Panic Attack
For someone who may be experiencing their first panic attack, a call to the doctor’s office or 911 is warranted. The idea is to make sure that the cause of the person’s distress is not a heart attack, asthma problem, endocrine emergency, or other dangerous medical condition.
A medical professional is the only person who should make the diagnosis of a panic attack. There is no such thing as a “wasted” visit to the doctor in this case. It is better to be told that the diagnosis is a panic attack than to assume that someone is panicking and be proved wrong.
Almost everyone experiencing symptoms of a panic attack needs evaluation. Unless the person has a history of having panic attacks, is otherwise healthy, and is experiencing a typical attack, they must be evaluated promptly by a doctor. The level of evaluation depends on many factors. Err on the side of safety when deciding whether to go to a hospital’s emergency department.
Even for medical professionals, the diagnosis of a panic attack is known as a diagnosis of exclusion. This simply means that before the doctor can be comfortable with the diagnosis of a panic attack, all other possible causes of the symptoms need to be considered and ruled out.
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The Destination Is Guaranteed So Relax
When I was very young, under five years old, I remember waking up in the mornings contemplating my own death.
That time just after waking up was strange for me because I wasnt sure where I had just been. It was like I didnt exist anymore while sleeping, then I woke up and I did. This made me think about dying and what it was like to not exist on a potentially permanent basis.
This thought as a young boy was at first terrifying, but also incomprehensible. I couldnt use what I had my mind and body to understand what it was like when these things are gone.
As I grew older, I came to a set of beliefs about death, which have significantly changed how I view life.
Death is the only thing in life that is guaranteed to occur. Everyone gets a turn.
You might not know when, or how, but you know for sure you will get to experience this aspect of life transforming.
Accepting my death became one of the core tenets of how I overcame anxiety and panic.
Whilst in the middle of panic attacks, I began thinking a mantra to myself over and over again
This too will pass.
This mantra is a powerful one that people often use for anything in life that is uncomfortable, undesirable or unpleasant.
After you have a few panic attacks, you really do understand through experience that they will actually pass, but I took the ethos of this mantra further.
Once I fully embraced my own impending departure from life as we know it, I came to a very powerful conclusion:
Remove Your Fear Of Panic Attacks
This is neither a fast nor easy way of dealing with panic attacks. But it is the better of these two approaches. This method requires the person to learn how to remain calm and grounded through relaxation exercises. Combining relaxation with controlled thinking can help him or her realize getting through a panic attack is possible. Over a period of time, he or she will learn they can get to the other side of a panic attack with no damage.
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Anxiety Is Something We All Experience From Time To Time
Most people can relate to feeling tense, uncertain and perhaps fearful at the thought of sitting an exam, going into hospital, attending an interview or starting a new job.
In turn, worries can affect your sleep, appetite and ability to concentrate. If everything goes well, the anxiety will go away. This type of short-term anxiety can be useful. Feeling nervous before an exam can make you feel more alert and enhance your performance.
However, if the feelings of anxiety overwhelm you, your ability to concentrate and do well may suffer.
If the anxiety stays at a high level for a long time, you may feel that it is difficult to deal with everyday life. The anxiety may become severe you may feel powerless, out of control, as if you are about to die or go mad. Sometimes, if the feelings overwhelm you, you may experience a panic attack.
A panic attack is an exaggeration of the bodys normal response to fear, stress or excitement. It is the rapid build-up of overwhelming sensations, such as a pounding heartbeat, feeling faint, swearing, nausea, chest pains, breathing discomfort and so on. If you experience this, you may fear that you are going mad, blacking out, or having a heart attack.
Panic attacks come on very quickly, symptoms usually peaking within 10 minutes, with most lasting between 5 and 20 minutes.
For some people they seem to come without warning and strike at random. They can also come at night and wake you up.