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.;
You Feel Like You’re Dying And Going Crazy At The Same Time
Cheryl Poldrugach, 53, of Dallas
Courtesy Cheryl Poldrugah
For 30 years, Cheryl Poldrugach hid her panic attacks from her family and friends.
When her anxiety hit, she would tell them she was sick or had the stomach flu. She sometimes missed important events like graduations and holiday celebrations, cancelling at the last minute when an attack left her curled on the bathroom floor.
Poldrugach says her secrecy contributed to her divorce 10 years ago and to rifts with friends and family.
“It was very crippling, she says. You get this cold sweat, yet feel like you’re on fire, and you’re shaking. Your heart is racing out of your chest. You feel like you’re dying and going crazy at the same time, and you’re not sure you can make it through.
It wasn’t until Poldrugach’s teenage daughter had a panic attack at school last year that she finally realized she had to get help and talk to her family about what she was going through.
She started taking anti-anxiety medication, which helped a lot. She also sees a counselor who has helped her learn about healthy ways to cope and get through an attack.
How she copes: Travel makes Poldrugach especially anxious, but it helps her cope to learn as many details as possible in advance. I’ll watch videos showing where we are going, she says.
Breaking The Silence And Stigma Of Mental Illness
Struggling and on the brink of suicide, Mark Markham turned to an expert team of mental health professionals at Mayo Clinic to help him regain his footing. With their guidance and care, Mark has been able to find his way back to a fulfilling life of purpose.
Editor’snote: It wasn’t that long ago that Mark Markham found himself with little willto live. Mark, a medical administrative assistant in Mayo Clinic’s Departmentof Neurosurgery, sought help from the Department of Psychiatry and Psychologyat Mayo Clinic in Rochester. He credits the compassionate staff at Mayo, thepower of mindfulness and meditation, and the unwavering support of friends,family and co-workers for where he is today: thriving in a life he loves. Markshares his story here in his own words.
I am a 34-year-old who suffers with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder. But I am not just that. I also am a 34-year-old who is a creative musician, a husband, a father to the cutest Yorkie you could ever meet , a devoted staff member in Neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, a compassionate and kind friend, and an individual who finds joy and laughter daily.
This story is about dealing with a mental illness and still thriving with a job and life I passionately and deeply love and care about. I do this with the help of Mayo Clinic as an institution, its staff, my friends, family, and most importantly, Generose .
“Mental illness has a funny way of pinning you against yourself.”
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Differences In How They Start
Anxiety can be a response to a specific worry or fear. It tends to develop gradually, and a person is usually worried or concerned at the outset. It can be mild, moderate or severe. There may be a sense that if only this problem can be solved, everything will be all right.
A panic attack can happen without warning, and there is no way to prevent it. It can happen whether a person feels calm or anxious, and even during sleep. There is often no obvious cause, and the level of fear is out of proportion to the trigger. In fact, according to the APA, the reaction is unrelated to the situation.
What Is It Like To Have Panic Disorder
One day, without any warning or reason, a feeling of terrible anxiety came crashing down on me. I felt like I couldnt get enough air, no matter how hard I breathed. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I thought I might die. I was sweating and felt dizzy. I felt like I had no control over these feelings and like I was drowning and couldnt think straight.
After what seemed like an eternity, my breathing slowed and I eventually let go of the fear and my racing thoughts, but I was totally drained and exhausted. These attacks started to occur every couple of weeks, and I thought I was losing my mind. My friend saw how I was struggling and told me to call my doctor for help.
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How To Describe The Triggers Of A Panic Attack:
In order to describe a panic attack, you need to be aware of what can trigger a panic attack. Some of the common triggers you can use to write a realistic panic attack are:
- Death of a loved one
- Loss of a job
- Going on stage or in speaking in front of a crowd
These are the most common and intense example of what situations can cause a panic attack. However, more sensitive people can panic as a result of anything as small as an argument with their friends or not getting the top position in the class.
While writing your character, be sure how sensitive your character is before creating a trigger situation for him/her to panic.
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.
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When To Get Help
See a GP if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of panic disorder.
They’ll ask you to describe your symptoms, how often you get them, and how long you have had them.
They may also carry out a physical examination to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.
It can sometimes be difficult to talk about your feelings, emotions and personal life, but try not to feel anxious or embarrassed.
You may be diagnosed with panic disorder if you have regular and unexpected panic attacks followed by at least a month of continuous worry or concern about having further attacks.
Panic Attack Signs And Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a panic attack develop abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. They rarely last more than an hour, with most ending within 20 to 30 minutes. Panic attacks can happen anywhere and at any time. You may have one while youre in a store shopping, walking down the street, driving in your car, or even sitting on the couch at home.
Panic attack symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Heart palpitations or racing heart
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy
Is it a heart attack or a panic attack?
Most of the symptoms of a panic attack are physical, and many times these symptoms are so severe that you may think youre having a heart attack. In fact, many people suffering from panic attacks make repeated trips to the doctor or the emergency room in an attempt to get treatment for what they believe is a life-threatening medical problem. While its important to rule out possible medical causes of symptoms such as chest pain, elevated heart rate, or difficulty breathing, its often panic that is overlooked as a potential causenot the other way around.
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Describe Your Panic Attacks
Panic attacks involve many physical and emotional symptoms. Tell your loved ones how panic attacks feel.
- “When I have a panic attack, I get chest pain, my heart races, I sweat a lot, and I feel afraid.”
- “Sometimes when I have a panic attack, I feel as though I am having a heart attack or dying. Please get emergency medical help if I ever ask for it because I would rather be safe than ignore a potentially serious issue.”
- “I have unexpected panic attacks, meaning that I can have a panic attack at any time without notice; there is not any type of situation that causes them.”
- “I have expected panic attacks whenever I … .”
- “When I have a panic attack, it may appear that I am overreacting, but Im not. I would not choose to feel that way. Please do not try to force me into feared situations.”
Types Of Anxiety Disorder
There are several different classified anxiety disorders. Each one features different types of symptoms that can, in some cases, be triggered by specific situations.
Panic disorder : This involves at least two panic attacks accompanied by the constant fear of future attacks. People with panic disorder may lose a job, refuse to travel or leave their home, or completely avoid anything they believe will trigger an attack of anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder : This is a constant state of worry about a number of events or activities in the persons life.
Phobic disorder: This features an incapacitating and irrational fear of an object or situation, for example, a fear of spiders or open spaces . Most adults with phobic disorder are aware that their fear is irrational.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder : This condition is marked by unwanted repeated thoughts and behaviors .
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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.
The Anticipation Of Future Attacks Triggers Me
Due to the sudden and unpredictable nature of panic attacks, it can be difficult to make plans to venture too far from home. Anticipatory anxiety can make ordinary outings, like watching a baseball game, feel overwhelming due to intrusive thoughts about the difficulty of finding an escape route or getting caught in a crowd.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Panic Disorder
While many people experience just one or two panic attacks without further episodes or complicationsand theres little reason to worry if thats yousome people go on to develop panic disorder. Panic disorder is characterized by repeated panic attacks, combined with major changes in behavior or persistent anxiety over having further attacks.
You may be suffering from panic disorder if you:
- Experience frequent, unexpected panic attacks that arent tied to a specific situation
- Worry a lot about having another panic attack
- Are behaving differently because of the panic attacks, such as avoiding places where youve previously panicked
While a single panic attack may only last a few minutes, the effects of the experience can leave a lasting imprint. If you have panic disorder, the recurrent panic attacks take an emotional toll. The memory of the intense fear and terror that you felt during the attacks can negatively impact your self-confidence and cause serious disruption to your everyday life. Eventually, this leads to the following panic disorder symptoms:
Anticipatory anxiety Instead of feeling relaxed and like your normal self in between panic attacks, you feel anxious and tense. This anxiety stems from a fear of having future panic attacks. This fear of fear is present most of the time, and can be extremely disabling.
How To Describe A Situation Where Someone Is Dealing With A Person Having A Panic Attack:
Dealing with people who are experiencing a panic attack is not easy, especially if you have had no history or previous knowledge about them. Your one small mistake might just infuriate the panicking person even more and increase the intensity of the attack. In order to write this situation correctly, you need to know the following things:
- Telling someone to calm down doesnt help in panic attacks. Its better to ask the person what they want you to do exactly to help them ease out.
So while describing the panic attack in your writing you can go something like:
Ava cared about her friend Marjorie. And Ava had seen many panic attacks of her own over the years. She knew she had to be calm for her friend. So she asked Marjorie whose eyes were bloodshot now, calmly, What would you like me to do for you?;
- Diverting the attention to something else can help the person calm down. You can either talk about stuff they like or ask them questions to keep them engaged. They may have a hard time answer but eventually, their brain will start focusing on answering the question and they will calm down.
- Make the person having a panic attack breathe in their fists.
Good, now make a fist, she told Marjorie. She saw her do as told, though shakily. Good, her friend was listening at least. Now breathe in, she performed an inward motion with her hands. And out, she breathed out with Marjorie.
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What Is The Purpose Of Self
Greater self-confidence allows you to experience freedom from self-doubt and negative thoughts about yourself. Experiencing more fearlessness and less anxiety. Greater confidence makes you more willing to take smart risks and more able to move outside your comfort zone. Having greater freedom from social anxiety.
What Is An Anxiety Attack
As mentioned previously, an anxiety attack is not a recognized medical condition as defined by the DSM-V. But this doesnt mean that it doesnt exist. Rather it is a term people with anxiety use to describe very intense or extended periods of anxiety.
Many people live with low-level anxiety on a daily basis. But every now and then, their anxiousness may increase, either gradually or suddenly, to a higher level than is usual for them. Symptoms of these anxiety attacks are more severe than the simple feeling of anxiety but less severe than a panic attack and may be short-lived or persist for days, sometimes weeks. Symptoms may include:
- Feeling particularly wound up or on edge
- Feeling irritable
- Difficulty concentrating or periods where your mind goes blank
- Having difficulty controlling worries
- Sleep problems
- Tire easily
Sometimes an anxiety attack is a prelude to a panic attack. For example, some people have experienced anxiety attacks on the way to an airport because they have previously had a panic attack on an airplane.
Anxiety attacks do not necessarily indicate that a person has an anxiety disorder, although anxiety as a symptom is linked to numerous mental health conditions, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD. Anxiety is appropriate in some circumstances and anxiety attacks are only more intense forms of that emotion.
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How Are Panic Attacks Diagnosed
Serious health problems, such as heart disease, thyroid disease and respiratory problems, cause symptoms similar to panic attacks. Your healthcare provider may run tests to rule out a physical problem. If theres no physical cause, your provider may make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and risk factors.
Sometimes It Creeps In
Anxiety doesnt always appear in a dramatic and rambunctious manner. Each of us will have different early warning signs but depending on how long weve been managing our anxiety, it can take us a while to pick up on them.
We might have been okay for a bit, and then start to notice some of these early warning signs we could be feeling a little more irritable, notice our muscles beginning to ache and start having to consciously unclench a few times a day, perhaps we start waking up a little more often in the night.
To those who dont have anxiety, it might seem like were overreacting or panicking over nothing when we start worrying about these symptoms. In isolation, they can seem like nothing much. But for those of us with anxiety, they could signal the beginning of another difficult anxiety patch. This can be really scary.
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