What Are The Symptoms Of A Panic Attack
A panic attack can be a terrifying experience, with many people believing that they are suffering from a heart attack or other medical problem. The symptoms can begin suddenly and without warning, with an intensity that can overwhelm even the calmest and rational person.
Common symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Tingling or numb sensation in your fingers, hands and lips
- An increased heart and breathing rate
- Excessive perspiration
- Needing to use the toilet
- Tightness of the chest
- A sense of impending doom or terror
- Feeling as though you have lost control
In general, most panic attacks will last for between 5-20 minutes, although some symptoms can last for an extended period of time. It is common for one panic attack to trigger another, often extending the experience for up to one hour.
While the above symptoms may feel terrifying, it can be comforting to keep in mind that a panic attack will not cause a heart attack or other physical harm.
How Can You Help Someone Who Is Having An Attack
If someone you know has a panic attack, they are most likely overcome with anxiety and not thinking clearly. There are a few things that you may be able to do to relieve some anxiety and help soothe some of the most pressing symptoms of the attack. We suggest that you:
What you say matters and that is still true even during a panic attack, there are some phrases that are helpful and some that are more hurtful to someone who is experiencing a panic attack. Try to say things such as:
The Unofficial Dos And Donts Of Being Around Someone With An Anxiety Disorder
Frequently on the Internet I see various articles for sufferers of anxiety or panic disorders about how to deal with anxiety or panic attacks while theyre happening. What I see less often is articles with information for friends and family of a sufferer on how to help them. It certainly shouldnt be anyone elses responsibility to fix the problem because that can only truly be done by the person whos experiencing the anxiety. But the easiest way for a person to overcome anxiety or panic is having someone they are completely comfortable with around them someone that can assure them everything is going to be okay.
Ive been fortunate enough to clear up a lot of my issues thanks to these points and additional lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. Based on my experience talking with others, many people can relate. Please know I am not a doctor, and if you think you or someone else is having serious issues with anxiety or panic disorders, seek professional medical advice. I just write these tips based on my own experience.
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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:
You Have No Reason To Be Nervous
Most likely, the person who is having the panic attack is aware that there is no reason to be anxious. When going through a panic attack, a persons fight-or-flight stress response is triggered, making their mind and body prepare for an actual or perceived threat.
Even if they are not in any real danger, they still may not be able to stop the attack from running its course. Reinforcing that the persons fear is unfounded can increase ones sense of anxiety.
Instead of bringing the lack of threat to their attention, try being a voice of encouragement. Use a soothing voice and simply remind them that you are there for them.
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Breathing Exercise For Panic Attacks
If youre breathing quickly during a panic attack, doing a breathing exercise can ease your other symptoms. Try this:
- breathe in as slowly, deeply and gently as you can, through your nose
- breathe out slowly, deeply and gently through your mouth
- some people find it helpful to count steadily from one to five on each in-breath and each out-breath
- close your eyes and focus on your breathing
You should start to feel better in a few minutes. You may feel tired afterwards.
Visit the No Panic website for another breathing exercise to calm panic.
Why Do Panic Attacks Happen
Panic attacks can happen to anyone, without any obvious cause or warning. They can be extremely alarming both for the person experiencing the attack and anyone trying to help
Exams increase stress and children and teenagers up and down the country will be sitting in exams halls, waiting to hear the famous words you can turn your papers over now.; For some, exams cause no problems at all, many just get butterflies, but for some, the fear of exams can result in full blown panic attacks. .
Certain times of life can make people more prone to panic attacks, often those going through menopause experience them and early Alzheimers can also result in a higher incidence. Increased stress and overload can often be a contributory factor. However, there does not need to be any obvious reason sometimes, they just happen!
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Do I Have A Panic Disorder
Its normal to feel anxious, stressed or panicked in certain situations, and many people will experience one or two panic attacks during their lifetime. However, someone with a panic disorder will experience frequent panic attacks and feelings of extreme anxiety on a regular basis. In many cases, these reactions will not reflect the actual experience and the panic attacks may occur for seemingly no reason.
Panic disorder can result in the sufferer beginning to avoid certain situations or events that they fear may trigger a panic attack. It can have an extremely debilitating effect on your life, so its important to seek help if you are experiencing multiple panic attacks and severe anxiety.
One study found that around 1.70% of the UK population has been diagnosed with a panic disorder, but this figure is likely to be higher due to the prevalence of sufferers who remain undiagnosed.
If you believe that you may be suffering from a panic disorder, get in touch with your GP. They will ask you to describe your symptoms and will either make a formal diagnosis or refer you to a mental health team who will be able to determine your condition. They may also conduct a physical examination in order to rule out any potential underlying disorders.
Treatment Options For Patients With Anxiety
There are two primary treatments for individuals with anxiety:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy , which involves learning how to lower anxiety and face distressing situations.
- Medication management with antidepressants, which works well on its own but even better when coupled with CBT.;
During therapy, continue to show your support by:
- Asking your loved one what you can do to help them.
- Asking if you can attend a therapy session to learn some skills to better support them.
- Making time for your own life and interests to sustain your energy.
- Encouraging your loved one to try another therapist if the first one isnt a good fit.
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One Of My Favorite Grounding Exercises:
Grounding means to bring your focus to what is around you rather than how you feel on the outside, either body sensations or thoughts. This is helpful for someone having a panic attack as it keeps them in the present rather than thinking about how they feel or what may have led to the panic attack.
Let Us Help With Your Loved Ones Panic Disorder
At SUN, weve created a caring, healing environment and will be there for every step of your journey to recovery. Please call us today at 859-429-5188 to help you, your family, and your loved one.
Millions of Americans suffer from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and other conditions. It can be a lonely, confusing, and emotional experience but you are not alone. If you or someone you love is struggling, SUN Behavioral Health in Erlanger can help.
At SUN Behavioral, our masters-level clinicians provide care for these specific challenges surrounding mental illness. Struggling with a mental illness is extremely difficult. Not only does it impact an individual on an emotional level, but it can also leave them with several physical complications.;
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Learn The Warning Signs Of Their Panic Attack:
One more thing that we want to say here when we talk about how to help someone with panic attacks, is that you should try and learn the warning signs of their panic attack.
You should know that commonly panic attacks begin with a feeling of choking, a feeling of terror, shortness of breath or hyperventilation, dizziness and shaking, and a pounding heart. However, since it is also true that everyone does not experience panic attacks a similar way, it is best to ask them what signs they tend to experience. The sooner you are to realize the signs in the patients with panic attacks, the faster it would be for you to help them and make them feel more comfortable.
Dont Shame Or Minimize
Its pretty common to worry about having a panic attack, especially in front of strangers, or believe the attack might annoy or inconvenience friends or loved ones.
People struggling with anxiety or panic attacks might intellectually understand the response is illogical. But hearing that from someone else can increase their isolation, Bingham explains.
Avoid saying things like:
- Just relax. Theres nothing to be afraid of.
- Youre upset over that?
- Whats wrong with you?
You might not intend to make your friend feel ashamed, but denying the reality of their distress can certainly have that effect.
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What Not To Say
Do not ask too many questions or validate any negative statements
Never tell someone to calm down or say that there is nothing to worry about
Saying this may indicate to the person that he/she has complete control over their symptoms
Do not tell them that they have nothing to be nervous about
Most likely, the panic attack sufferer is aware that there is no reason to be anxious. During a panic attack, a persons flight-or-fight response is triggered, making his/her mind and body prepare for an actual or perceived threat
Do not tell them that they are just overreacting
This can tremendously discourage a person facing a panic attack. Panic attacks are a real set of symptoms and should not be confused with emotional reactions that are within ones control. The panic sufferer often perceives these attacks as frightening
Engage In Light Exercise
Endorphins keep the blood pumping in exactly the right away. It can help flood our body with endorphins, which can improve our mood. Because youre stressed, choose light exercise thats gentle on the body, like walking or swimming.
The exception to this is if youre hyperventilating or struggling to breathe. Do what you can to catch your breath first.
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Treatment For Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
People who have frequent panic attacks, especially those who find their activities limited by fear of a panic attack, may benefit from speaking to a mental health professional in order to address their anxiety. There are many types of therapy that are suitable for addressing anxiety and any underlying issues. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, can help a person understand behaviors and ways of thinking that might contribute to the development of an attack and change these patterns to help prevent attacks and reduce their severity. A therapist might also recommend exposure therapy. In this type of therapy, the person in treatment is exposed to the sensations that accompany panic, one at a time, in a controlled environment so that effective ways of coping with those sensations can be learned. Individuals who have developed agoraphobia are encouraged, as part of treatment, to face open spaces and crowds until they begin to feel more comfortable in them. Support groups may also be beneficial to some.
Anti-anxiety/anti-panic medications or benzodiazepines may be useful at treating the symptoms of a panic attack, especially on a temporary basis, but because medication cannot treat what is causing an individual to experience panic, most therapists do not recommend medication as the only form of treatment.
Other strategies that may help people cope with panic attacks on their own include relaxation techniques and realistic thinking.
When To Seek Help
Panic attacks can be frightening and disorienting. If someone is worried about a panic attack, they can talk to their doctor for advice and reassurance.
A person may want to talk to a healthcare professional if their panic attacks:
- are recurring and unexpected
- are getting in the way of daily life
- do not pass with home coping methods
A doctor can talk a person through both short-term coping methods and long-term treatment options.
The symptoms of a panic attack can resemble those of a heart attack. These include chest pain, anxiety, and sweating. If someone suspects a heart attack or stroke, the person needs immediate medical attention.
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What To Do When Someone Else Is Having A Panic Attack
This section will provide some tips on how to help a person having a panic attack.
First, try talking them through a few of the methods above. For instance, help them find a peaceful spot, encourage them to take slow, deep breaths, and ask them to focus on a nearby object.
If you do not know the person, introduce yourself and ask them if they need help. Ask them if they have had a panic attack before, and if so, what helps them regain control.
People can also try the following tips when someone else is having a panic attack:
- Try to remain calm. This will help them relax a little more.
- Suggest moving to a quiet spot nearby and help them find one. Sitting down in a comfortable place can be very effective, as it allows them to focus on their breathing.
- Remind the person that panic attacks always end.
- Stay positive and nonjudgmental. Avoid validating any negative statements.
- Try having a gentle, friendly conversation to distract them and help them feel safe.
- Avoid telling them to calm down or telling them that there is nothing to worry about, as this devalues their emotions.
- Stay with them. If they feel that they need to be alone, make sure they remain visible.
When To Seek Medical Help
If you haven’t experienced a panic attack yourself, it can be hard to know what to do for the best. So, when should you call for additional help? There isn’t an easy answer. On more than a few occasions I’ve;ended up in ER and have called out the ambulance service as I thought I was having a heart attack. However, in fact,;it was just down to an extreme episode of panic.;
In the midst of an attack, telephoning the local emergency number may seem like the safest way to help a friend having a panic attack,;but this can often exasperate an already stressful situation. If a friend is used to having panic attacks they can hopefully recognize the symptoms. In this case, simply sticking around with your friend or nearby until they feel better might be all you need to do.
However, you should call for medical assistance if:
- symptoms deteriorate and persist for longer than 20-30 minutes
- shortness of breath doesnt improve
- chest pain feels like squeezing and moves to arms/shoulders
To make matters even more confusing, even if you are with someone who has had loads of panic attacks, they may still ask you to call an ambulance as they feel the one they’re experiencing is different or a heart attack. In any case as I’ve often been told by paramedics you should never feel bad if you’ve made use of emergency services because you thought someone’s life may be in danger. After all, that’s what they are there for.;
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