What Are The Complications Of Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are highly treatable. Unfortunately, many people put off seeking help because theyre embarrassed. Untreated panic attacks or panic disorder can interfere with your ability to enjoy life. You may develop:
- Anticipatory anxiety: The possibility of having a panic attack triggers extreme anxiety.
- Phobias: A phobia is an extreme, unreasonable fear of something specific. For instance, acrophobia is a fear of heights, while claustrophobia is a fear of enclosed spaces.
- Agoraphobia: Approximately two-thirds of people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia. This anxiety disorder makes you afraid to be in places or situations where a panic attack might happen. The fear can become so extreme that you become too afraid to leave your house.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Panic Attack
Panic attack symptoms can strike at any time. They come on very rapidly and usually peak within a few minutes. Symptoms often include:
- dizziness, feeling lightheaded or faint
- numbness or tingling
- hot or cold flushes
- fear of losing control, or that youre going crazy
- sense of impending doom or danger
What Are The Complications Of Panic Disorder
As the panic gets worse and an attacks last longer, you may find it very tough to cope with everyday life, keep a job, or function in social settings. You may fear going into places where it may be hard to escape or you feel trapped. Some people can’t leave their home for fear that help is not available or that he or she will be forced into a situation that will trigger an attack.
People with this condition may also abuse alcohol or drugs to relieve stress.
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Causes Of Panic Attacks
Anxiety disorder is the principal cause of all panic attacks. According to the National Institute of Mental Health , approximately 40 million adults in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 51 are diagnosed as being affected by anxiety disorders. However, the total number of people who are affected by anxiety disorders â and who are therefore predisposed to experience a panic attack â is thought to be far greater.
Panic is the most acute form of anxiety. As such, a panic attack is caused by heightened anxiety, whereby the body undergoes physiological changes due to oneâs thoughts, entering into a state called fight or flight mode. A person may not be consciously aware of the thoughts that induce this state, as it can be caused by the brainâs background activity.
Fight or flight mode is an automatic response to danger, rapidly preparing the body for physical activity, such as running away from or fighting off a predator. In a panic attack, however, there is usually no immediate physical threat to escape from.
Physiological changes associated with fight or flight mode, that may contribute to a panic attack, include:
- Increased metabolic rate
- Loss of hearing and dilation of pupils
- Relaxation of the bladder and sphincters
What Do Panic Attacks Feel Like
During a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up very quickly. These can include:
- a pounding or racing heartbeat
- feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
- feeling very hot or very cold
- sweating, trembling or shaking
- pain in your chest or abdomen
- struggling to breathe or feeling like you’re choking
- feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly
- feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings, which are types of dissociation.
During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you’re:
- losing control
- going to die.
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Help Them Stay Grounded
Grounding techniques can have benefit for a range of anxiety issues, including panic attacks.
Grounding techniques can help contain panic attacks after they begin, explains Megan MacCutcheon, a therapist in Vienna, Virginia.
These techniques help the person focus on whats actually happening, not their fear of the attack. Theyre often most helpful once the intensity of the attack has faded a bit.
What Causes A Panic Attack
Panic attacks are very common, with up to 5 in every 100 Australians experiencing a panic attack at some stage in their life. During a panic episode, someone is overwhelmed and disabled by the physical symptoms listed above. The panic reaches its peak after about 10 minutes and can take up to half an hour to subside. A panic episode leaves the person feeling temporarily exhausted and drained.
Having a panic attack doesnt necessarily mean you have panic disorder. Panic disorder is when you have repeated panic attacks that severely disrupt your life.
Panic attacks can be caused by:
- a temperament that is sensitive to stress or negative emotions
- changes in the way your brain functions
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Why Is Panic Disorder Diagnosed Less Often In Men
It’s not entirely clear what accounts for the gender difference. One factor may be that men are less willing to talk about anything that may be perceived as weakness, says Philip R. Muskin, MD, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. So they tend to downplay their symptoms. Some studies support the idea that hormonal differences between women and men might also play a role, says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, chief psychologist at Montefiore Health System in New York City. Another possible reason, according to Rego, is the physiological differences between the genders.
What Is A Panic Attack
A panic attack is a brief episode of intense anxiety, which causes the physical sensations of fear. These can include a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling and muscle tension. Panic attacks occur frequently and unexpectedly and are often not related to any external threat. A panic attack can last from a few minutes to half an hour. However, the physical and emotional effects of the attack may last for a few hours. Panic attacks are common. Up to 35% of the population experience a panic attack at some time in their lives. A panic attack can also be called an anxiety attack. Without treatment, frequent and prolonged panic attacks can be severely disabling. The person may choose to avoid a wide range of situations for fear of experiencing an attack.
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Stress Anxiety And Then Panic: Neal’s Story
As Sideman says, his attack occurred in the early 1990s, and few people seriously considered the possibility of a panic attack in a 39-year-old man. So he went home thinking all would be fine, only to have another, more severe attack one week later.
Now, looking back, the situation seems clearer.
I was under a lot of stress starting a new business, working 16-hour days, a close friend was ill and dying, and on top of all that, I was doing a super heavy workout regimen at the gym with a trainer,” Sideman says. “So it was a lot of physical stress, emotional stress, and a lot of financial stresses.” He says he also can see roots of anxiety in his childhood and teen years as well as in other family members.
In the moment, he didnt know what to think because it can be tough to know what a panic attack is like until you have one. His second panic attack was really a full-blown panic attack, where I thought I was going to die,” Sideman says. “I thought I was going to pass out, not wake up, go crazy, have a heart attack.”
He recalled being terrified, and the response he chose was one that can actually make panic disorder worse: He started to avoid the situations where he had attacks.
Panic Attacks Quiz: Do I Have Panic Disorder
In order to manage threatening situations, humans have evolved to experience a “fight or flight” response. As part of this response, when humans are confronted with a dangerous situation, their body mobilizes by sending blood away from their extremities and into the major muscles, producing adrenaline, and increasing heart rate so that we are better equipped to fight off danger.
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How Do Psychologists Assess Severity
Psychologists may use a variety of tests to determine how severe your panic disorder is, or they may simply use their own experience and expertise. In general, severity of panic disorder plays only a moderate role in treatment, since the treatments for panic disorder tend to be similar regardless of severity.
What Makes A Panic Attack Severe
Since all panic attacks are severe, how does one figure out what makes a severe panic attack?
There are two important characteristics that make some panic attacks more severe than others:
- How much they disrupt healthy living.
- How much your life is controlled by the attacks.
It’s not whether the attacks themselves are severe, but rather whether the entire disorder is causing a severe disruption of your ability to lead a healthy or happy life. Think of it in terms of the entire disorder rather than the attack itself.
When assessing severity, psychologists will generally look at the following:
Someone with severe, debilitating panic attacks that does not show any avoidance behaviors or depression may still have severe attacks, but someone with slightly less severe attacks that has developed agoraphobia and depression and struggles to focus on work or attend social functions may have more severe panic disorder.
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Mental Health Treatment Program Locator
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides this online resource for locating mental health treatment facilities and programs. The Mental Health Treatment Locator section of the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator lists facilities providing mental health services to persons with mental illness. Find a facility in your state at . For additional resources, visit www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp.
What Is A Panic Disorder
You may actually have a panic disorder when you have recurrent panic attacks causing you to avoid doing behaviors that you think may elicit a panic attack. It may cause you to want to avoid going shopping or it might cause you to want to avoid being around certain people, and you may have certain expected triggers. Triggers that you know may cause you to have a panic attack. So, now you have avoidance behavior, trying not to be around those things but then you may also have unexpected triggers with a panic attack where you’re just in a situation that seems calm, seems non-stressful, but you still have a panic attack.
You may wake up from your sleep with a panic attack. All of this means that you could have a panic disorder. Now, if this is the case, it’s time to seek treatment and yes, there is treatment for panic attacks and panic disorders.
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What Can I Do During A Panic Attack
When you feel a panic attack coming on, there are some quick strategies you can try.
If you have a friend with you, it can be helpful to tell them whats happening. They can reassure you it will pass and that the symptoms wont hurt you.
How To Help Someone Having A Panic Attack
A panic attack is a brief but intense rush of fear.
These attacks involve symptoms similar to those experienced when facing a threat, including:
- intense fear
- head and chest pain
Panic attacks differ from a typical fear response because theres no actual threat involved.
Panic attack triggers arent always easy to identify, so people who have one attack often worry about having more, especially in public.
Panic attacks usually feel very uncomfortable and cause significant distress. Many people believe theyre experiencing a heart attack or other life-threatening issue.
If you know someone who experiences panic attacks, there are several things you can do to help them in the moment.
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Anxiety Vs Panic Attacks
Anxiety and panic attacks are both very common. They are both often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed as medical conditions.
Anxiety is characterized by ongoing worry or fear about the future. With generalized anxiety disorder , for example, anxiety symptoms are present for normal everyday experiences and can create mild-to-severe interruptions in a person’s life. With anxiety, symptoms may be present on some level all the time or during specific periods of known stressors, such as during a public presentation.
Panic attacks tend to come on suddenly and can happen from either a calm state or a state of feeling anxious. They often occur without warning or a known trigger and bring a sense of doom, intense fear, and a feeling of dying.
Similarly, both anxiety and panic attacks have physical and psychological symptoms. With panic attacks, however, the symptoms tend to come on quickly and are often only present for up to 10 minutes. With anxiety, symptoms can be present for a much longer period of time.
What A Panic Attack Feels Like
Panic attacks produce intense fear that begins suddenly, often with no warning. An attack typically lasts for 5 to 20 minutes. In extreme cases, symptoms may last for more than 1 hour. The experience is different for everyone, and symptoms often vary.
Common symptoms associated with a panic attack include:
The symptoms of a panic attack often occur for no clear reason. Typically, the symptoms are not proportionate to the level of danger that exists in your environment.
Because these attacks cannot be predicted, they can significantly affect your everyday life.
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At What Age Do People Usually Get Diagnosed With Panic Disorder
Panic disorder usually develops in people ages 18 to 35, says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, chief psychologist at Montefiore Health System in New York City. It is most often diagnosed in the early 20s to mid 30s. In these cases, people often report that their panic attacks began in late adolescence or early adulthood.
While children also can have panic disorder, it is much less common. Panic disorder can develop in late adulthood, Rego says, but this, too, is less common.
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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How To Cope When You Have Panic Attacks
Desperate for help, he reached out to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which sent him a list of therapists experienced in treating panic attacks and anxiety. This is how I got better,” Sideman says. “I found a therapist who understood what panic disorder was, understood agoraphobia, and knew cognitive behavioral therapy, which I had not known about. He also started practicing meditation.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to help with treating panic disorder and agoraphobia. According to a study published in December 2013 in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, its effects lasted as long as two years after the initial treatment. And a study published in August 2017 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology suggested that it may be superior to traditional psychotherapy in the treatment of this condition.
People generally can overcome panic attacks faster if they seek help after the first one or two, says psychologist Cheryl Carmin, PhD, director of clinical psychology training at the Wexner Medical Center and a professor at Ohio State University in Columbus. When you do seek help, your doctor or therapist will ask about your symptoms and the situations in which they arise, and might also recommend additional medical testing to rule out other health concerns.
Panic Disorder And Panic Attack Causes
If you are prone to experiencing negative emotions and are sensitive to anxiety you may be at risk for the onset of panic attacks and panic disorder. Childhood experience of sexual or physical abuse, smoking, and interpersonal stressors in the months before the first panic are also risk factors.
Furthermore, it is believed that genetics play a role in susceptibility to panic disorder, although the exact genes, gene products, or functions that are implicated are not known. Individuals with a parent or parents diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are also thought to be at a higher risk of developing panic disorder.
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