Wednesday, January 25, 2023

What Does Having A Panic Attack Feel Like

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Are Panic Attacks Treatable

What panic attack feels like

Panic attacks are a treatable symptom. Typically, treatment options will be geared toward the underlying cause and may involve a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Medications prescribed for symptoms of panic attacks include benzodiazepines, a type of anti-anxiety medication that can provide rapid relief for panic symptoms and antidepressants that over time decrease the frequency and intensity of panic symptoms. Psychotherapy can help you explore your fears and learn to manage your frightening physical sensations.

What Happens In Your Brain

Scientists are still studying how panic attacks affect the brain. Itâs possible that the parts of the brain that are tied to fear become more active during an episode. One recent study found that people with panic disorder had lots of activity in a part of their brains tied to the âfight or flightâ response.

Other studies have found possible links between panic disorder and the chemicals in your brain. The condition may also be linked to an imbalance in serotonin levels, which can affect your moods.

What Can I Do To Reduce Anxiety And Anxiety Attacks

In many cases, anxiety attacks are caused by certain emotional triggers or perceptions of threat. Identifying and avoiding these triggers can help reduce the chance of having an attack, but if the triggers are a normal part of everyday life, complete avoidance may be impossible. In these cases, it may be time to explore your options for the treatment of anxiety disorder.

That said, there are a number of effective tools and techniques you can use that may help lower your overall levels of anxiety. Some of these techniques include:

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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:

  • Mitral valve prolapse, a minor cardiac problem that occurs when one of the hearts valves doesnt close correctly
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Medication withdrawal
  • Treatment For Panic Attack

    Panic Attacks: Identifying the Signs

    If you think youd be helped by a more physical approach, Dr. Rubin recommends literally focusing on your surroundings.

    You can focus your attention on feeling your feet firmly on the ground while you are sitting or standing, she recommends. “Look at the sky, the room you are in, the people around youmindfully observe/label/name what you see and experience in the moment.

    And remember, this too shall pass.

    Whether or not the symptoms reach a peak, they will pass, says Dr. Rubin. Panic attacks do not last forever because emotions do not last forever. They come and go like waves, even when the waves are really big.

    In the longer term, you might want to consider speaking with a licensed expert, such as a medical doctor, a therapist, a counselor, or a psychiatrist.

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    How To Help Someone Having A Panic Attack:

    Everyone experiences panic attacks differently, but you can help someone experiencing a panic attack. From my personal experience, here are some ways:

  • Talk to them: A great way to help someone through a panic attack is to simply talk with them. Whether it is on the phone or in person, you can be there to let them know they will be okay. You can even do breathing exercises with them.
  • Ask if they need anything. I would have people fetch me some ice water or ice cubes to help my body return to a calm state.
  • Go with them to a calm and quiet area. If you are in a loud and stimulating area, you can offer to walk with them somewhere else. I have found cold empty restrooms to be a calming place to process.
  • Dont panic. Typically panic attacks will come in a wave, which means the panic will pass. It helps a lot to have someone remaining calm. That being said, do not hesitate to seek help if the person experiencing the panic attack needs medical attention, such as if they are fainting.
  • Know their triggers and how to help. If you have a friend or loved one who you know has panic disorder, ask them directly what you could do to help them in the event of one. This will allow them to explain their disorder to you, and will also make them feel validated and cared for.
  • Faq Regarding Medical Treatments

    If you are debating whether you need to seek treatment or not, here are some of the questions you may be asking yourself and some possible answers.

  • Does Therapy Work?
  • Therapy can help you to identify triggers as well as helps you to manage your symptoms. Therapy may also help you to deal with issues from your past. Persons diagnosed with panic disorder or anxiety disorder may find cognitive behavioral therapy to be the most effective type of treatment.

  • Does Medication Help?
  • Medication is helpful for reducing symptoms for those who have recurrent panic or anxiety attacks or severe attacks. Medication is often used in conjunction with therapy for those with panic or anxiety issues. Some of the medications that can be prescribed include:

    • Antidepressants
    • Benzodiazepines

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    Bringing Focus To Your Breath

    Because rapid breathing is one of the widely experienced symptoms in those who suffer panic attacks, learning deep breathing techniques is a must.

    Deep breathing can help you to manage your state of panic and reduce fear while a panic attack is happening. Heres a technique I recommend to help:

    1. Close your eyes

    2. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose for as long as you can

    3. Breathe out slowly and gently through your mouth

    4. Repeat this technique for as long as possible until your panic symptoms have reduced

    Many people find the above breathing technique to be useful for them in controlling and coping with panic attacks. Breath is one of the most powerful ways in which we can reassert control over our body and return it to a calmer state.

    Of course, sometimes you may practice the breathing technique and find that you are unable to calm yourself down in this way.

    This is why it is extremely important to consider multiple coping strategies and use them all in conjunction with one another to ensure you have the best tool kit to tackle panic attacks.

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    What Panic Attacks Feel Like

    Emotionally, it feels like my brain is crumbling. Physically, it feels like a huge weighted band constricting around my lungs and diaphragm so that I can take breaths, but none of the air feels like it gets through to my lungs. Clair Evans, Birmingham, AL

    Watch a hot doc explain whether you should be worried about your anxiety:

    Panic attacks for me tend to feel more like someone has pushed my head under water, and just when I think I’m going to drown, I’m pulled up for a short breath only to be pushed back under again. Carrie Anton, Madison, WI

    I begin to feel like my soul is separating from my body. My muscles spasm and my chest feels as if it has ropes wrapped around it making it difficult to breathe. I get tunnel vision and nothing makes sense. I can’t talk or understand those talking to me. Angie River, Vancouver, BC

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    What Helps To Manage Panic Attacks

    Panic attacks can be frightening, but there are things you can do to help yourself cope. It could help to print off these tips, or write them down, and keep them somewhere easy to find.

    During a panic attack:

    • Focus on your breathing. It can help to concentrate on breathing slowly in and out while counting to five.
    • Stamp on the spot. Some people find this helps control their breathing.
    • Focus on your senses. For example, taste mint-flavoured sweets or gum, or touch or cuddle something soft.
    • Try grounding techniques. Grounding techniques can help you feel more in control. They’re especially useful if you experience dissociation during panic attacks. See our page on self-care for dissociation for more information on grounding techniques.

    After a panic attack:

    • Think about self-care. It’s important to pay attention to what your body needs after you’ve had a panic attack. For example, you might need to rest somewhere quietly, or eat or drink something.
    • Tell someone you trust. If you feel able to, it could help to let someone know you’ve had a panic attack. It could be particularly helpful to mention how they might notice if you’re having another one, and how you’d like them to help you.

    See our pages on self-care for anxiety and treatments for anxiety for more information on what could help.

    Are Panic Attacks Dangerous

    Absolutely not, says Dr. Rubin.

    Though they may subjectively feel like theyre extremely dangerous or even fatal , its really important for people to know they cant die from a panic attack.

    The feeling of danger is just that: a feeling.

    The sensations of a panic attack are so intense, says Dr. Rubin, but that’s all they are, just very unpleasant and uncomfortable physiological sensations that cannot hurt you in any way.

    Of course, there can always be an exception.

    If someone has a previously diagnosed cardiac issue, its always good to check with a physician who can help distinguish between their cardiac issue and anxiety symptoms, says Dr. Rubin.

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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.

    Stress Anxiety And Then Panic: Neal’s Story

    How Do You Feel When Having An Anxiety Attack

    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.

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    The Calm After The Storm: What Its Like In The Aftermath Of A Panic Attack

    I wish there was a word that captured the feeling of a panic attack. A strict and specific word to encapsulate one of the cruelest feelings I have ever known. It seems like my entire life has been spent searching for that one word that matches my internal definition.

    The rush of blood, the fast pace of my heart rate, the moment right before the first tear falls. Some people would use a word like fear or agony to describe this. However, I still dont think those fit. The feeling is something much more than antagonizing dread. It is much more than the feeling of death.

    If you have ever experienced a panic attack, then you know what this is like. It is a roller coaster, slowly easing upwards before a huge drop waiting for the inevitable. Except the drop never happens, and you are stuck at the very top with your heart racing and hands shaking. It is only until minutes or hours later, once you can breathe again, once you remember how to stop crying, once you can be thankful that you are alive, that the roller coaster drops and ends.

    Unlike a roller coaster, a panic attack doesnt stop once it ends. There is leftover emotion, leftover pain and exhaustion. This is the hardest part for me. My panic attacks come as quickly as they go only a few minutes that seem like an infinity.

    I am fine, though. Dont worry, I promise. Its just a rough patch. Im just stressed. Ill be fine.

    We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

    Thinkstock photo via Daviles

    How To Tell If Youre Having A Panic Attack Versus An Anxiety Attack

    The terms panic attack and anxiety attack are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Both have several symptoms in common but there are key characteristics that help to distinguish them both. The different attacks have a different duration and have different intensities as well.

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    Myth # 4 Only People With A Diagnosed Mental Illness Have Panic Attacks

    In fact, anyone can have a panic attack, even those that do not have a diagnosed mental illness. Of course, there are some people who are at a higher risk of having a panic attack, those with mental illness included. Those with a history of child abuse or trauma and a family history of panic attacks are also at a higher risk. Persons with the following diagnoses have a greater risk of a panic attack:

    • GAD Generalized Anxiety Disorder
    • PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

    There are still people at risk who are not affected by any of the above. Sometimes, a simply stressful school, work, or home environment can be traumatic. Sometimes it could be as simple as not getting enough sleep, enough water, or enough food.

    As a result, it is good if everyone has an idea of what a panic attack feels like and what can help them to get back to a calm place. With just a bit of understanding, you can reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illness. The ability to explain what is happening to you or what has happened can be a great help for those around you.

    The most difficult part to cope with for many is the mental illness stigma. This, along with the rough time that may have triggered the panic attack, can make the experience even worse. Due to this, the ability to separate the myths from the reality can make a big difference to those suffering from panic attacks.

    Are There Clinical Trials Studying Panic Disorder

    What A Panic Attack Feels Like

    NIMH supports a wide range of research, including clinical trials that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditionsincluding panic disorder. Although individuals may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others may be better helped in the future.

    Researchers at NIMH and around the country conduct clinical trials with patients and healthy volunteers. Talk to a health care provider about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you. For more information, visit NIMH’s clinical trials webpage.

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    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 .

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