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.
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.
What Causes Panic Attacks
Most people who struggle with panic want very much to know what causes panic attacks. There are really two questions here, and I will answer them both in this article.
The first one is what causes an individual anxiety attack. This is very important because once you know how panic attacks work, you will be in a good position to free yourself from panic attacks.
The second version of this question has a very different meaning. When people ask “what causes panic attacks?”, they often don’t mean an individual attack. They want to know “why” they have this problem. They frequently ask themselves the “Why?” question, especially when they are having a panic attack.
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What Are The Differences
Here are some of the features that distinguish them.
An anxiety attack, or anxiety:
- can have a specific trigger, such as an exam, workplace issues, a health issue, or a relationship problem
- is not a diagnosable condition
- is less severe than a panic attack
- usually develops gradually when a person feels anxious
- involves physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or knot in the stomach
A panic attack:
- often occurs suddenly and unexpectedly and last between a few minutes and an hour, although the negative impact may continue
The term anxiety attack is not listed in the American Psychological Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition .
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.
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What Does It Feel Like When You’re Having A Panic Attack
Well, it can literally feel like you’re about to die. You can have chest pain, shortness of breath, numbness, tingling, and or sweating. That’s why many people who are having panic attacks end up going to the emergency room. Most panic attacks peak over a matter of minutes and they’ll last for less than 30 minutes, but that time or the total duration of the attack can vary. So, panic attacks can actually last from a matter of seconds to hours.
Have You Ever Had A Panic Attack? If So, Please Comment Down Below And Please Share Your Symptoms Of A Panic Attack.
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.
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Ways To Prevent Panic Attacks
“You need to try to work out what particular stress you might be under that could make your symptoms worse,” says Professor Salkovskis. “It’s important not to restrict your movements and daily activities.”
- Doing breathing exercises every day will help to prevent panic attacks and relieve them when they are happening
- Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, will help you to manage stress levels, release tension, improve your mood and boost confidence
- Eat regular meals to stabilise your blood sugar levels
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking these can make panic attacks worse. Panic support groups have useful advice about how you can effectively manage your attacks. Knowing that other people are experiencing the same feelings can be reassuring. Your GP can put you in touch with groups in your area
- Cognitive behavioural therapy can identify and change the negative thought patterns that are feeding your panic attacks
How Is Panic Disorder Diagnosed
Medical or mental health providers can diagnose panic disorder. Your provider may diagnose panic disorder when you have repeated panic attacks and you:
- Persistently worry about having more panic attacks or their consequences.
- Obsess about losing control during a panic attack.
- Change your behaviors to avoid situations that may trigger a panic attack.
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Types Of Anxiety Disorders:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by chronic and exaggerated worry and tension, much more than the typical anxiety that most people experience in their daily lives. People may have trembling, twitching, muscle tension, nausea, irritability, poor concentration, depression, fatigue, headaches, light-headedness, breathlessness or hot flashes.
Panic Disorder: People with panic disorder have panic attacks with feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. During the attacks, individuals may feel like they can’t breathe, have lost control, are having a heart attack or even that they are dying. Physical symptoms may include chest pain, dizziness, nausea, sweating, tingling or numbness, and a racing heartbeat. Some people will have one isolated attack, while others will develop a long term panic disorder either way, there is often high anxiety between attacks because there is no way of knowing when the next one will occur. Panic disorders often begin early in adulthood. Many people with panic disorder also suffer from agoraphobia . See more on Panic Attacks.
Phobias are irrational fears. Individuals with phobias realize their fears are irrational, but thinking about or facing the feared object or situation can bring on a panic attck or severe anxiety.
What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
If you have panic attacks, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- Why am I having panic attacks?
- What is the best treatment for panic attacks?
- How long will I need therapy?
- How long do I need to take medications?
- Should I look out for medication side effects?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Panic attacks can be extremely uncomfortable. Although theyre not physically harmful, they can take a toll on your mental health and stop you from doing the things you love. Dont be embarrassed to tell your healthcare provider that you have panic attacks. Your provider can help you overcome fears and anxieties that trigger attacks. You can get better with treatments like psychotherapy and medications.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/12/2020.
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How To Deal With Panic Attacks
A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense anxiety.
Panic attacks can also have physical symptoms, including shaking, feeling disorientated, nausea, rapid, irregular heartbeats, dry mouth, breathlessness, sweating and dizziness.
The symptoms of a panic attack are not dangerous, but can be very frightening.
They can make you feel as though you are having a heart attack, or that you are going to collapse or even die.
Most panic attacks last somewhere from five minutes to half an hour.
Tips For Helping Someone With An Anxiety Disorder:
- Make no assumptionsask the person what they need.
- Be predictabledon’t surprise the person.
- Let the person with the disorder set the pace for recovery.
- Find something positive in every small step towards recovery.
- Don’t help the person avoid their fears.
- Maintain your own life so you don’t resent the person with the disorder.
- Don’t panic when the person with the disorder panics, but realize it’s natural to be concerned with them.
- Be patient and accepting, but don’t settle for the affected person being permanently disabled.
- Say encouraging words such as: “You can do it no matter how you feel. I am proud of you. Tell me what you need now. Breathe slow and low. Stay in the present. It’s not the place that’s bothering you, it’s the thought. I know that what you are feeling is painful, but it’s not dangerous. You are courageous.”
- Avoid saying things like: “Don’t be anxious. Let’s see if you can do this. You can fight this. What should we do next? Don’t be ridculous. You have to stay. Don’t be a coward.” These phrases tend to blame the individual for the anxiety.
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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:
Why Do I Get Random Panic Attacks For No Reason
It can be confusing, frustrating and even terrifying to experience random panic attacks that appear to occur for no reason.
You may feel completely calm one moment before experiencing a range of physical and psychological symptoms that leave you feeling as though you are going crazy or having a heart attack.
There are two main types of panic attacks, labelled as expected and unexpected. An expected panic attack has an identifiable trigger for example, if you are afraid of flying then an expected panic attack would likely occur on the plane.
In comparison, unexpected panic attacks appear to happen out of the blue and seemingly for no reason.
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What These Factors Have In Common
What causes panic attacks to invade a person’s life? Genetic predisposition, early childhood experience with anxiety and risk, and challenging changes on becoming an independent adult.
What these three factors have in common is that none of them were under your own control. These are all developmental events in life which happen to some people. The factors which cause panic attacks are not something you could have controlled.
There is therefore no reason to feel guilty, ashamed, or apologetic about having panic attacks. They are not the result of living badly or of making bad choices or of being “stupid”, or cowardly.
Panic Attack Vs Anxiety Attack
Panic attacks are different from anxiety attacks in several important ways. An anxiety attack is an intense or extended episode of anxiety. It is more severe than the normal symptoms of anxiety but not as severe as a panic attack. An anxiety attack usually includes one or more of the following symptoms:
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on edge
- Difficulty concentrating or your mind going blank
- Muscle tension and chest pain
- Difficulty controlling worries
An anxiety attack involves a period of intense apprehension about the future. They can also occur before panic attacks. One of the key differences between an anxiety attack and a panic attack is that the former usually features worries about something in particular. Panic attacks, on the other hand, may not involve stress relating to future events. Panic attacks are the bodys response to the perceived threat of imminent danger.
Also, unlike panic attacks, anxiety attacks usually arent signs of an anxiety disorder. An anxiety attack is a more extreme form of the anxiety we feel in response to stressful situations. A final distinction between the two is that a panic attack is abrupt and short-lived while an anxiety attack is gradual and more prolonged.
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Panic Attacks Dont Last As Long As They Feel Like They Do
Panic attacks feel like an eternity to the sufferer, but the reality is that your body cant sustain them for very long. The brain goes into fight or flight mode when people experience panic attacks.
Panic attacks typically reach their peak within ten minutes and resolve within thirty minutes. They rarely last more than an hour. That thirty-minute period is so physically and emotionally overwhelming, however, that it feels like much longer and requires a significant recovery period after. Panic attacks are very draining and its difficult to jump right back into school, work, or family fun immediately following an attack.
What To Do About It
Symptoms that arise from this type of brain activity can typically be treated with medication. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , for example, are frequently prescribed for people who suffer from persistent panic attacks and anxiety. However, psychotherapy can also be very effective, as it teaches you to separate panic sensations from threat responses.
In addition, simple lifestyle adjustments can have tremendous benefits. Sufferers often find comfort in physical activity, sufficient rest, relaxation techniques like yoga, as wells as talking to others with similar problems.
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Your Sweat Glands Go Into Overdrive
A person having a panic attack may excessively sweat for a myriad of different reasons. From a fight-or-flight perspective, the Anxiety Centre notes that the body increases its perspiration production in order to reduce the amount of water being stored in the kidneys. Less water in the kidneys means a decreased need to go to the bathroomand as far as the body is concerned, there’s no time for that when there is an imminent threat.
In other instances, someone having a panic attack can also experience an uncomfortable amount of perspiration due to their increased heart rates and respiration. These upticks occur as the body works in overtime to reroute the flow of blood from the less essential parts of the body to the more important areas essential for survival.
Treatment For Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
The most effective form of professional treatment for tackling panic attacks, panic disorder, and agoraphobia is therapy. Even a short course of treatment can help.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the thinking patterns and behaviors that are sustaining or triggering your panic attacks and helps you look at your fears in a more realistic light. For example, if you had a panic attack while driving, what is the worst thing that would really happen? While you might have to pull over to the side of the road, you are not likely to crash your car or have a heart attack. Once you learn that nothing truly disastrous is going to happen, the experience of panic becomes less terrifying.
Panic attacks: what they are and what to do about them Free course to help you manage panic.
Panic Disorder Explanatory video from Khan Academy and American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Hotlines and support
NAMI Helpline Trained volunteers can provide information, referrals, and support for those suffering from anxiety disorders in the U.S. Call 1-800-950-6264.
Find a Therapist Search for anxiety disorder treatment providers in the U.S.
Support Groups List of support groups in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and South Africa.
Anxiety UK Information, support, and a dedicated helpline for UK sufferers and their families. Call: 03444 775 774.
Anxiety Canada Provides links to services in different Canadian provinces.
What Causes Panic Disorder
Panic disorder sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some family members have it while others dont. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain, as well as biological processes, play a key role in fear and anxiety. Some researchers think that people with panic disorder misinterpret harmless bodily sensations as threats. By learning more about how the brain and body functions in people with panic disorder, scientists may be able to create better treatments. Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and environmental factors may play a role.