Types Of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety attacks can stem from an anxiety disorder. There are several types of anxiety disorders. Below are three common anxiety disorders that lead to anxiety attacks:
Generalized anxiety disorder
This anxiety disorder is diagnosed in people that experience excessive anxiety or worry for more than 6 months. You may have many worries, like health, finances, relationships, or work.
This type of anxiety disorder is when you fear places or situations that may cause you panic. You will find yourself avoiding these situations that make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.
A panic disorder is diagnosed in people who have recurrent unexpected panic attacks. You may be in constant worry about when or how your next panic attack will occur.
Tell Yourself Youre Just Processing Information
When you’re suffering from , panic attacks are so often you can’t tell when you’re actually having one. You’re in a constant state of fight or flight for months on end. You’re too scared to fall asleep and terrified while being awake. Eventually, when you do finally fall asleep, you wake up from nightmares that scare you awake. Sometimes they come as often as every ten minutes.
A social worker once told me that “nightmares are the brain’s way of processing information. The best way to combat them is to say ‘processing information’ every time you wake up from one.” This little trick has helped desensitize nightmares over the long-term so you feel less panicked after waking up from one.
Cause Of Anxiety Attacks
Anxiety attacks are usually – although not always – caused by severe stress. The symptoms depend on the type of attack. The term anxiety attack is sometimes used interchangeably with the term panic attack, but may also refer to any periods of extreme anxiety beyond what a person normally experiences.
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.
How Can I Help My Child During An Anxiety Or Panic Attack
attacks, formally known as panic attacks, are scary. As a parent, it can be extremely devastating to witness your child experience a panic attack and as a child or a teenager, a panic attack can feel life-threatening. Many describe panic attacks as feeling as though a room is closing in on them or feeling as though they are having a heart attack or that they may die. Panic attacks can be triggered by specific things or may occur suddenly for no reason. Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder and is diagnosed if your child suffers at least two unexpected panic or anxiety attacks followed by at least one month of concern over having another attack.
Treatment For Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
The most effective form of professional treatment for tackling panic attacks, panic disorder, and agoraphobia is . 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.
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.
SANE Help Centre – Provides information about symptoms, treatments, medications, and where to go for support in Australia. Call: 1800 18 7263. .
– Provides information and support to those with mental health concerns in India. Call: 1860 2662 345 or 1800 2333 330.
It’s As If A Vice Is Squeezing Me
Anita Lesko, 61, Pensacola, Fla.
Courtesy Anita Lesko
Anita Lesko has always been a germaphobe, so her anxiety started to build when she first read about the coronavirus in early 2020.
A certified registered nurse anesthetist , Lesko knew she was at higher risk of exposure because of her job administering anesthesia to patients before surgery. When she began hearing about the nationwide lack of personal protective equipment for health-care workers, Lesko really began to worry.
“The prospect of going to work, getting exposed and ending up on a ventilator or dead — that’s what pushed me over the edge,” she says.
One morning in March, when she was between patients at the hospital, Lesko developed a deep feeling of impending doom. She began to hyperventilate, her heart started racing and she broke out in a sweat. Pressure began building in her chest.
“I got a gripping sensation in my whole chest and throat area, as if a vice was squeezing me,” she said. “Then I started shaking literally to the core of my body.”
Lesko asked to leave early and fled to her car. She collapsed into the driver’s seat and burst into tears.
“I was just sitting there trying to talk myself out of it, and trying to make myself breathe normally,” she recalls.
It took about 30 minutes before she was calm enough to drive. When Lesko got home, she was so exhausted she had to sleep for a few hours before she could do anything.
A Panic Attack During Ozark Is Nothing Special For Me Panic Attacks In General Are Nothing Special
I’m guessing that’s why I white knuckled through it without even pausing the episode to take a break.
This might sound ludicrous to the average human, especially if that human has ever had a panic attack — and most have. Most people can tell you of an experience or two when their body felt like it was made out of fear. But for me, a panic attack is as commonplace as a sneeze. There are times when I do have to halt what I’m doing to address them, but almost as often, I feel them coming and roll my eyes at the inconvenience. The Ozark panic attack was one of those kinds — I was irked to have such an unpleasant sensation while I was busy trying to watch Jason Bateman launder a bunch of cash. I could tell it would be a short one, so I just kept on watching.
The panic attack subsided within five minutes and I went about my day as if everything was fine — because it was. When you grow up with panic at your doorstep, you learn to live with it in ways that sound downright macabre to other people. That doesn’t mean it’s an easy way to live, though — far from it.
I can’t remember the first time I had a panic attack. They’ve always been there, like an allergy or a congenital heart defect. By the time I was in school, I had a list of things that I avoided because of the panic that came with them: men, men with beards, nighttime, mixing foods together, disagreement, and men.
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 , 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.
Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia was traditionally thought to involve a fear of public places and open spaces. However, it is now believed that agoraphobia develops as a complication of panic attacks and panic disorder. Although it can develop at any point, agoraphobia usually appears within a year of your first recurrent panic attacks.
For example, you may begin to avoid:
- Crowded places such as shopping malls or sports arenas.
- Cars, airplanes, subways, and other forms of travel.
- Social gatherings, restaurants, or other situations where it would be embarrassing to have a panic attack.
- Physical exercise in case it triggers panic.
- Certain food or drinks that could provoke panic, such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, or specific medications.
- Going anywhere without the company of someone who makes you feel safe. In more severe cases, you might only feel safe at home.
Teach Your Children About Panic Attacks
Anxiety attacks usually last for about 10-15 minutes however it can feel like a lifetime for both you and your child. After your child has his or her first panic attack, it is important to educate them on the signs and symptoms associated with panic attacks so if another one occurs, they can understand what is happening. Teach your children that panic attacks are a false alarm in their bodies. Let them know the physical sensations associated with a panic attack so that when they experience them, it won’t be as scary.
Terror Injected Into Your Brain
To someone who’s never experienced one, the best way I can think to describe a panic attack is: It’s like having liquid terror injected into your brain. An overwhelming feeling that something is very wrong and you’re helpless to stop it. The brain desperately looks for a cause, but there’s none to be found. It’s truly one of the most distressing experiences I’ve had.
The common physical symptoms of a panic attack can include:
- rapid heartbeat
- stomach cramps
- stiff muscles
During an attack, it’s common to fear one of two things: “I’m going to die” or “I’m going crazy.” Many people believe it’s a heart attack or stroke. That’s the crafty thing about panic attacks, they mimic serious symptoms of other illnesses.
What triggers one? Well that depends — again, so irritating. There’s no one definitive cause.
My biggest trigger is any environment that reminds me of school. The desks, group setting, and fear that at any moment I could be asked a question I don’t know. This is why meetings or dinner parties can be triggering. For other people, it’s public transportation, supermarkets, or driving during heavy traffic.
However, all is not lost! You don’t have to be a slave to panic all of your life. There are techniques that can be very beneficial to you.
Are Panic Attacks Treatable
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 , 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.
How Can Panic Disorder Affect Day
If you live with panic disorder, you might end up slowly but steadily eliminating all potential panic attack triggers from your life. In time, you could find yourself avoiding any situation that inspires feelings of nervousness or fear, just in case you have another attack.
Here are a few examples of how panic disorder can affect your daily life and routines:
- You don’t want to have a panic attack on the road, so you stop driving.
- The thought of having a panic attack on a plane terrifies you, so you stop traveling to see family and friends in your hometown.
- Since you can’t get to work without taking public transportation, you quit your job.
- After having a panic attack during class, you feel so nervous about returning to school that you eventually withdraw.
- You struggle to explain to your partner that you’re afraid of feeling like you’re choking and losing control in public. They don’t understand why you can’t go out to eat, and this creates tension in your relationship.
- You might try to manage your anxiety with alcohol, only to find it intensifies your feelings.
Panic disorder can sometimes contribute to , or the fear of being in a space you can’t easily leave. Eventually, you might begin to feel so anxious you avoid going anywhere at all.
Limiting your activities and social interactions can take a toll on your relationships and emotional health. Isolation can lead to loneliness and and, in some cases, thoughts of suicide.
Myth: Only People Diagnosed With A Mental Illness Experience Panic Attacks
Reality: Anyone can experience a panic attack, even without a diagnosis of mental illness.
That said, some people are more at risk for experiencing multiple panic attacks throughout their life, including people with a family history of panic attacks or history of child abuse or trauma. Someone also has a higher risk if they have diagnoses of:
Panic Attacks I Turned My Mental Health Crisis Into A Mental Health Triumph
“Although it’s taken me a long time I have learned I am a strong person who has the potential to help others.”
You might find that you become scared of going out alone or to public places because you’re worried about having another panic attack. If this fear becomes very intense, it may be called agoraphobia. See our pages on types of phobia for more information.
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I just wanted to get out, to go somewhere else, but I couldn’t because I was on a train.”
Treatment For Panic Attack In Children
Panic attacks in children and adolescents may be treated with medications and behavioral therapy.
- Medications: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors is a class of antidepressant drugs that is often the preferred choice of treatment. Benzodiazepine is another group of drugs used. However, they can cause sedation and drowsiness and hence may not be the preferred choice of treatment for children. The doctor will decide the drug and make a long-term or short-term prescription based on the age of the child, severity of the panic attack, and its recurrence.
- Behavior therapies: Cognitive-behavioral therapies aim to make children understand the realistic and unrealistic thoughts that lead to panic attacks. It could help them overcome their fears. Play therapy or talk therapy can be useful in overcoming anxieties in childhood .
Children with recurrent and more frequent episodes may require initiation of drug therapy before behavioral therapies.
What Are The Signs Of A Panic Attack
If you’re having a panic attack, you may experience:
- tingling fingers
- ringing in your ears
Some people think they are having a heart attack because it feels like their heart is beating fast or irregularly, or even that they are going to die.
Panic attacks usually last somewhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Although it may feel like something is seriously wrong, they aren’t dangerous and shouldn’t harm you.
You won’t usually need to be admitted to hospital if you have had a panic attack.
Give Yourself A Simple Massage
In order to stop panic attacks, you’ll need to help yourself relax. Unfortunately, going to the spa regularly can be out of some people’s price range. So you’ll have to practice pampering yourself. There are a few spots that do the trick.
When having a panic attack, massage the top part of your nose between the eyes. Just move your finger up and down gently to help you relax. You can also massage your wrists or feet. Sometimes rubbing your chest above the heart can help you unwind. Some people rub ice on themselves in a massaging motion to help stop panic attacks. So you can try that too!
The Difference Between An Anxiety Attack And A Panic Attack
Once again, “anxiety attack” is not a clinical term. It’s a term used to describe periods of more intense anxiety that go beyond traditional anxiety experiences.
That differs from the term panic attack. Panic attacks are severe anxiety attacks like what is described above – attacks that are often so disabling that many people struggle to cope with them and develop panic disorder, health anxiety, and possibly agoraphobia.
Traditionally, the term “anxiety attack” is used to discuss weaker versions of panic attacks. If you have multiple panic attacks, you have panic disorder. Anxiety attacks can affect anyone – even those without panic disorder or an anxiety disorder – and so the term is used to encompass all of these types of attacks.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll discuss these types of anxiety attacks as the weaker version of a panic attack. But in life, people do use the two terms somewhat interchangeably, and both are related to the same feelings of doom, along with relevant symptoms.
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 bathroom—and 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.
Acknowledge The Panic Attack
People spend most of their time in the two wrong places: the past or the future. In the past, you drown yourself in depression. In the future, you’re scared for your life. But in the present, that’s where you can find the most joy. While having a panic attack can be wildly unpleasant, it’s important to sit with yourself in the present moment and acknowledge it.
Tell yourself, “Right now, I’m having a panic attack. I feel scared, anxious, and worried that something will go wrong. However, right now nothing bad is happening right now. I am safe. I feel myself taking a deep breath in. I feel the oxygen entering my lungs. I feel my toes grounded on the floor. I’m shaking my arms back and forth. This moment isn’t perfect but it will pass. Good moments are up ahead. All I need to do is feel this present moment.”
Are All Panic Attacks The Same
Not all panic attacks are experienced in the same way. The following describes one way panic attacks are categorized:
- Expected panic attacks: These attacks occur when a person is subjected to or is anticipating a particular trigger. For example, a person with a fear of heights may have a panic attack when inside of a tall building.
- Situational predisposed panic attacks: These attacks are similar to cued panic attacks, but do not always occur after subjection to a feared situation. These attacks also don’t always occur at the time the person is exposed to the trigger. For instance, a person who has a fear of flying may not always have a panic attack while on a plane or may have one after being on a flight.
- Unexpected panic attacks: These attacks occur suddenly without any internal or external cues.
Ways To Help Yourself
Small changes can help prevent further panic attacks.
- Practice breathing exercises regularly. They can help prevent panic attacks and help while they’re happening too.
- Physical activity can reduce stress and tension and improve your mood.
- Eating regular healthy meals can keep your blood sugar stable which can boost your energy and mood.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and if you can. These can make panic attacks worse.
- Try . It’s a way of being fully present and engaged in the moment that can help with anxiety.
- Join a peer support group. They bring together people who have had similar experiences to help each other. Anxiety UK, No Panic and all run support groups and other services.
It Feels Like My Body Is Going At The Speed Of Light
Kevin Rosko, 61, Michigan City, Ind.
Courtesy Kevin Rosko
Kevin Rosko was 10 years old when he had his first panic attack. It happened after he watched his uncle get smashed in the head with a baseball. Even though his uncle ended up being fine, Rosko couldn’t stop thinking about what he’d seen.
That night in the bathtub, his heart started racing, his body felt numb and he told his mom he couldn’t breathe.
The panic attacks continued to happen occasionally through Rosko’s childhood and adult life. He saw different therapists and tried a variety of medications, but none got his anxiety totally under control.
The attacks didn’t happen very often, so Rosko learned to live with them. The symptoms were always the same:
“My heart starts pumping like I’m running Mount Everest,” he says. “It feels like my body is going at the speed of light. I get pain in my arms and back, I feel dizzy, my mind is racing.”
Rosko worked as a crane operator at a steel mill before retiring in 2014. If he felt an attack coming on at work, his boss was good about giving him the rest of the day off.
Rosko also helped to care for his sister, who had Down syndrome and came to live with him when he was in his 40s. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease five years ago, she became more difficult to care for. That’s when Rosko’s panic attacks ramped up. He began having one about every 10 days, severely impacting his quality of life.
“It relaxes me,” he says. “It helps me feel less antsy.”
Symptoms Of Anxiety Attacks
It is normal to feel anxious in response to certain situations or experiences. Our bodies have a natural fight-or-flight response when faced with danger or stress. Anxiety attacks go beyond feeling butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous and extend to an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.
The signs and symptoms of an anxiety attack can vary from person to person but are generally experienced as both physical and psychological indicators. Many times the symptoms occur in response to a trigger that the person perceives as a threat or possible danger. Other times, the symptoms can occur spontaneously.
A person experiencing an anxiety attack could have any number of the following :
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