Do I Have Panic Disorder
Having panic attacks does not necessarily mean that a person has panic disorder. People who have panic disorder experience recurring and unexpected panic attacks, but panic attacks are also common among other anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder , post-traumatic stress disorder , and specific phobias.
What Does Anxiety Attack Mean
Anxiety attacks often have triggers, although they can be triggered by nothing at all. Some people experience anxiety attacks during periods of intense anxiety, but many others experience them “out of nowhere,” usually as a response to a physical sensation. For example, it’s not uncommon to have your first anxiety attack simply because your heartbeat speeds up, because anxiety has caused you to be hypersensitive to these changes.
The causes of anxiety attacks are everything from severe stress to hyperventilation to a need to regain control. It differs for different people, which is why treating it has a great deal to do with identifying triggers. Once you’ve experienced an anxiety attack, the fear of another anxiety attack may actually trigger an attack, because those that are afraid of getting a panic attack again often pay too much attention to their own body, and react to any changes in sensations.
What Should I Do If I Am Having An Anxiety Attack
If you think you might be having an anxiety attack, the first step to handling it is to recognize that you are having one. This is why knowing about triggers and symptoms of an attack is important in the long-run. Once you can identify that youre having an anxiety attack, you can carry out steps to help you cope with it.
After recognizing that you are having an anxiety attack or are about to have one, you should take deep breaths. Deep breaths can help prevent hyperventilation and slow a racing heartbeat. Try to relax your muscles at this time and dont tense up too much. By taking deep breaths and allowing your muscles to be loose, you can encourage your body to be more relaxed and decrease the feeling of losing control.
Because anxiety attacks happen in response to a certain situation or circumstance, removing yourself from that situation, if possible, can be helpful in moving past the symptoms of an attack. Symptoms usually subside once the stressor has been removed.
Overall, the most important idea in helping yourself during an anxiety attack is to try a variety of techniques to keep yourself calm. Taking deep breaths is one of the most widely used relaxation techniques. It is also useful to take some time to understand how you respond to anxiety and develop ways to lower anxiety and promote calm.
After an attack has passed, take some time to reflect on any circumstances or stressors you think could have been triggered.
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You Can Help Guide Me Through A Panic Attack
The best thing you can do if you see me having a panic attack is to stay calm and talk me through it. When a panic attack strikes, I will feel a combination of overwhelming fear and some of the scary physical symptoms listed above. This is what helps:
- Deep breathing: I dont need the paper bag, but it helps if you count my breaths with me. Breathing in for four, holding for four, and releasing for four helps slow my heart rate and decrease the physical symptoms I experience.
- Coping statements: Talking back to my irrational thoughts with assertive coping statements helps me work through the attack. Saying, Im not dying, Im feeling anxious, disrupts the irrational thought process.
- Distraction: Once Im using my deep breathing, it helps to shift my focus.
Once the panic has passed, I need time to unwind and recover. Taking a walk or simply getting outside can help.
Your loved ones might never truly understand how you feel when you have a panic attack, but educating them helps them better understand what a panic attack is, symptoms to look for, and how they can help you when they see you in distress.
Treatment For Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety
Treatment for anxiety depends on what symptoms you have and how severe they are.
Therapy and medication are the two main treatments for anxiety. If you experience physical symptoms, talk therapy or medication that improves your anxiety often leads to improvement of these symptoms.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most common and effective therapy options for anxiety.
You may find that therapy on its own is helpful. But if your symptoms dont improve, anxiety medication is an option you can discuss with a psychiatrist.
You can also take action on your own to address anxiety symptoms.
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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.
Identifying Symptoms And Learning How To Manage An Anxiety Attack
An anxiety attack is a reaction to a particular stressor. This reaction is often characterized by fearfulness, overwhelming hopelessness, and a racing heart. Anxiety attacks are commonly used interchangeably with panic attacks, but the conditions are different even though they share many similarities.
General feelings of anxiety, when faced with an unfamiliar situation, are common and happen to everyone. This kind of anxiety may feel like uneasiness in the stomach, often referred to as feeling butterflies in your stomach. However, anxiety attacks are more severe reactions than general feelings of anxiety.
Anxiety attacks cause a physical and mental response to a specific stressor, fear, or circumstance. For example, receiving sudden and unexpected bad news from a relative could trigger an attack, or hearing footsteps while in a dark alley could also prompt a reaction.
Anxiety attacks are usually shorter episodes than panic attacks. They typically subside once the stressor or anxiety-provoking situation is out of the picture. Once an individual walks past that dark alley and makes it through to a location where they feel safer, the symptoms will lessen.
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Youre Short Of Breath
Your blood circulates oxygen around your body. When your stress response boosts how quickly youre sending blood around your bodythanks to your heart racingyour breathing might increase to provide you with more oxygen.
If you breathe too quickly , you can actually enhance a lot of the physical anxiety symptoms on this list because your oxygencarbon dioxide balance gets out of whack, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Thats why we often talk about belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, says Dr. Potter. This is essentially breathing slowly and deeply by really using your diaphragm. By slowing down how quickly youre breathing, you have more of a chance to get the oxygen you need, Dr. Potter explains.
Focus On Your Senses And Surroundings
When you are having a panic attack, you can feel out of touch with things around you. One way you can feel back in touch with your surroundings is by picking out five things you can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. This is called a grounding exercise. You can pick a couple for each sense, or focus on one sense, like finding five things that you can see. This can help you feel connected with your surroundings and in control.
How Can You Tell If Youre Having An Attack
The main component of identifying an anxiety attack is singling out a responsible trigger. Anxiety attacks, unlike panic attacks, are brought on by a certain circumstance. Suppose, you were recently in an anxiety-causing situation or a circumstance that could provoke fear, you could be experiencing an anxiety attack alongside some of the listed symptoms.
Anxiety attacks tend to disappear once the stressor is removed. Suppose you distance yourself from the stressful situation and find that your symptoms have lessened and you feel less overwhelmed and fearful. In that case, you can identify the trigger for that anxiety attack.
Its important to note that anxiety attacks also share similar symptoms to conditions like panic attacks and heart attacks. If you find that the attacks are brought on out of the blue without an identifiable trigger, you could be experiencing a panic attack instead.
Heart attacks, meanwhile, can only be diagnosed through medical testing. If you are at a higher risk of a heart attack, consulting with your primary doctor about your experiences can be beneficial. Your medical provider will be able to identify your condition better and help you distinguish between a heart attack and an anxiety attack.
Ensuring that your condition is properly diagnosed is an important part of seeking help. It is especially important to receive a medical diagnosis if you have other medical conditions that require attention.
Signs And Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders
In addition to the primary symptom of excessive and irrational fear and worry, other common emotional symptoms include:
- Feelings of apprehension or dread.
- Watching for signs of danger.
- Anticipating the worst.
- Feeling like your minds gone blank.
But anxiety is more than just a feeling. As a product of the bodys fight-or-flight response, it also involves a wide range of physical symptoms, including:
- Pounding heart.
- Shaking or trembling.
Because of these physical symptoms, anxiety sufferers often mistake their disorder for a medical illness. They may visit many doctors and make numerous trips to the hospital before their anxiety disorder is finally recognized.
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You Seem Prone To Catching Colds
Some people tend to get sick more often in periods of high anxiety, says Dr. Potter. Your immune system doesnt function as well when your fight-or-flight response is operating for too long, according to the Mayo Clinic. This could mean that youre more susceptible to issues such as the common cold, although a lot of other factors come into play here as well, like how robust your immune system is in general and how vigilant you are about hand hygiene.
How To Cope With An Anxiety Attack
Lets start with the immediate, quick hacks to help you freeze your anxiety attack once it kicks into your life. No matter how scared or helpless you feel at that moment, try to do the following things:
Do a Simple Stretch
When you have an attack, your breath is too short and shallow, meaning it worsens further symptoms. Once you feel the panic stand up and start doing some simple stretching. If you manage to squeeze in a yawn, that will help you tame the attack even faster. Stretching and yawning instantly helps you relieve muscle tension and interrupt the vicious cycle that is just about to roll in full strength.
Focus on your breathing.
No need to master the art of meditation for this. Simply inhale for three counts and exhale for five. Repeat the exercise for as long as you need to.
Drink a glass of ice-cold water.
To regulate your bodys temperature and reduce the escalating cycle of panic, slowly drink a glass of icy water. Take small sips and focus on every gulp you make. While drinking, imagine how your body and mind is cooling down.
Focus on using peripheral vision
To activate your parasympathetic nervous system, use this simple meditation technique: focus your gaze on an imaginary point in front of you relax your focus and use your peripheral vision, as if you are trying to take in everything around you with soft focus. It signals to your brain to relax. The more you practice this technique the faster it will help you to relax in any situation.
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What Should I Ask My Doctor
If you have anxiety or were recently diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, consider asking your doctor these questions at your next visit.
Youre Sweating Up A Storm
If youre already grappling with anxiety, the thought of sweating profusely may just make it worse. Who wants to worry about pit stains or wiping their palms when theyre already totally anxious? Unfortunately, sweating is a common side effect of anxiety disorders, according to the NIMH.
When your sympathetic nervous system gets activated, it can influence the sweat glands basically all over your body. You have two kinds, according to the Mayo Clinic: eccrine, which cover most of your skin, and apocrine, which are only on body parts that have a lot of hair follicles. Both types of sweat glands can cause anxiety-induced perspiration, but its the milky fluid from your apocrine glands in particular that may make it smell bad.
How Are Panic Attacks Managed Or Treated
Psychotherapy, medications or a combination are very effective at stopping panic attacks. How long youll need treatment depends on the severity of your problem and how well you respond to treatment. Options include:
- Psychotherapy:Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy, or talk therapy. You discuss your thoughts and emotions with a mental health professional, such as a licensed counselor or psychologist. This specialist helps identify panic attack triggers so you can change your thinking, behaviors and reactions. As you start to respond differently to triggers, the attacks decrease and ultimately stop.
- Antidepressants: Certain antidepressant medications can make panic attacks less frequent or less severe. Providers may prescribe serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors , serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or tricyclic antidepressants . SSRIs include fluoxetine and paroxetine . SNRIs include duloxetine and venlafaxine . TCAs include amitriptyline and doxepin .
- Anti-anxiety medications: Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medication to treat and prevent panic attacks. They help with anxiety but have risks of addiction or dependence. These medications include alprazolam and lorazepam .
How Are Anxiety Disorders Treated
You can check what treatment and care is recommended for anxiety disorders on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence website.
NICE produce guidelines for how health professionals should treat certain conditions. NICE only provide guidelines for:
- Generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder,
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder ,
- Post-traumatic stress disorder , and
- Social anxiety disorder.
The NHS does not have to follow these recommendations. But they should have a good reason for not following them.
We have described some of the treatments for anxiety disorders below. The treatments you will be offered depend upon the type of anxiety disorder you are experiencing.
You can find more information about treatments for:
Monitoring your symptomsSome anxiety disorders, such as generalised anxiety disorder may get better by itself with no treatment at all. Or after education and advice from your doctor. Your doctor will monitor your symptoms to see if they improve. And they will talk to you about medications that you can get without a prescription. These are sometimes called over-the-counter medications.
Individual non-facilitated self helpThis involves working from a book or a computer program. You will be supported by a trained professional
Individual guided self-helpYou should:
Your learning should:
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You Have A High Level Of Distress
Anxiety is a question of degree. Its one thing to be jittery before an important test or presentation or to worry about your health when an epidemic is in the news. And if you have a particular sensitivity flying, dentists, working the room at a crowded party youre going to be tense as one of those situations approaches. If the tension consumes your day, however, if it crowds out other thoughts or if the psychic pain goes from troubling to severe, thats another matter.
Anxiety will prevent people from sleeping theyll find themselves crying over it, says psychologist Golda Ginsburg, professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and a specialist in child and adolescent mental health. There are students who will vomit in the days leading up to a test.
In some cases, the emotions become so severe they lead to a panic attack, a sort of weaponized anxiety that hits fast and hard and includes such symptoms as dizziness, rapid heart rate, depersonalization or out-of-body experience and a fear of losing control or dying. If you suddenly have to slam on your brakes and swerve to avoid a collision, that pounding heart and rapid breath you feel for a few minutes after is a form of panic attack, says psychologist Anne Marie Albano, director of Columbia Universitys Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders. In the context of a disorder, however, you might start to feel the same thing the moment you walk into the office or a party.