How Is Panic Disorder Treated
First, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Your doctor should do an exam and ask you about your health history to make sure that an unrelated physical problem is not causing your symptoms. Your doctor may refer to you a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Panic disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment for you.
Psychotherapy. A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy is especially useful as a first-line treatment for panic disorder. CBT teaches you different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to the feelings that come on with a panic attack. The attacks can begin to disappear once you learn to react differently to the physical sensations of anxiety and fear that occur during panic attacks.
For more information on psychotherapy, see .
Medication. Doctors also may prescribe different types of medications to help treat panic disorder:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
Another type of medication called beta-blockers can help control some of the physical symptoms of panic disorder, such as rapid heart rate. Although doctors do not commonly prescribe beta-blockers for panic disorder, they may be helpful in certain situations that precede a panic attack.
How To Control An Anxiety Attack
Anxiety attacks can be difficult to stop after they’ve started, but there are techniques that can help reduce their severity. If you believe you’re having or about to have an anxiety attack, try the following:
Anxiety attacks are very difficult to stop once they’ve started, but by using the above tips you can reduce the severity. The less severe your panic attacks, the less you’ll fear them, and the easier they’ll be to control.
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.”
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The Severity Of Your Anxiety
It should be noted that everyone’s anxiety attack is a little different. Some people have panic attacks when they’re simply overwhelmed by stress. Most people have anxiety attacks that are more of a reaction to physical experiences. So while the following represents the basics of an anxiety attack, it is by no means what happens to everyone.
What Is Panic Disorder
If you’re having lots of panic attacks at unpredictable times and there doesn’t seem to be a particular trigger or cause, you might be given a diagnosis of panic disorder. It’s common to experience panic disorder and certain types of phobia together. People who experience panic disorder may have some periods with few or no panic attacks, but have lots at other times.
Panic disorder and high sensitivity
Some research suggests that people who have panic disorder might be very sensitive to sensory experiences , but there’s not enough evidence yet to say for sure.
Also it’s not clear whether having a high level of sensitivity to these sorts of things is something that might cause you to develop panic disorder, or whether it may be an effect of having it.
“Never knowing when I was going to have a panic attack was the worst feeling in the world.”
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What Triggers An Anxiety Attack
Anxiety attacks are unusual, in that they can be triggered under moments of heavy stress or fear, or they can be triggered by nothing at all. Often the first anxiety attack comes at a moment in a person’s life when they’re experiencing a lot of stress . But future panic attacks can be caused by almost anything:
- Worry that theyll have another panic attack.
- Paying too much attention to how the body feels.
- Absolutely nothing.
Once again, it is because anxiety attacks can seem and feel so random that not everyone that has them even knows or believes that theyre having an anxiety attack. Those that have panic attacks too often may even start to develop other anxiety conditions, such as health anxiety, because of how difficult it is to feel like their anxiety attacks are real.
Not everyone that has an anxiety attack once will have it again, however. Some people only experience an anxiety attack because they are under profound stress and exhaustion, or theyre faced with a dangerous situation. For example, if you almost got into a car accident you may experience a panic attack, but only because your anxiety in that situation was so strong that it was uncontrollable.
But many that have panic attacks will have them again. It depends on the individual.
Tell Yourself Youre Just Processing Information
When youre suffering from PTSD, panic attacks are so often you cant tell when youre actually having one. Youre in a constant state of fight or flight for months on end. Youre 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 brains 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.
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Regain Control With Meditation
Meditation is another common intervention that can be helpful not only as a preventative measure to reduce anxiety on an ongoing basis, but also as a tool to re-establish your relationship with your thoughts, which becomes important during an attack.
It can help clients become an observing witness to the fluctuations of thought, realize they are not controlled by them, and consequently reduce symptoms, says Meredith Strauss, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker who specializes in treating anxiety and depression. By focusing on the breath, or the mantra, clients are distracted from disturbing thoughts dictated by the mind. They also learn to become non-judgmental of negative and distracting thoughts as they become a witness to their own thinking.
She also notes there are meditation apps available that help calm an anxious and overactive mind. Also, writing thoughts in a journal can also help the client vent and understand the origin of their feelings.
The First Anxiety Attack
Most people that have anxiety attacks experience their first attack during a time when they are experiencing a considerable amount of stress in their life, but not necessarily, and the attack doesn’t necessarily occur when that person is experiencing the most stress either.
In general, the first attack is often described as “coming out of nowhere.” The first attack follows the same pattern as the attacks outlined below, but knowing the specific trigger can be difficult. Sometimes there is an identifiable source of stress or several sources but other times there may appear to be no trigger at all.
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Could You Be Suffering From Panic Disorder
Take our 2-minute panic disorder test to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.
During the day if she was out, the attack felt like my head suddenly weighed a thousand pounds and my chest would get really heavy. It literally felt like something was pulling me down. I would usually have to head home immediately. I would then experience foggy vision where itactually looked like there was fog in the air. I also experienced double vision and parts of my bodylike my neck or one arm or one entire side of my facewould go totally numb.
In addition to the emotional turmoil and the physical manifestations that Caroline and Kirstie describe panic attacks can cause palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate sweating trembling or shaking sensations of shortness of breath or smothering feelings of choking chest pain or discomfort nausea or abdominal distress feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed or faint chills or overheating numbness or tingling feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself fear of losing control or going crazy and fear of dying.
Isolated attacks are bad enough. But when the attacks recur in a short period of time or when the fear of another attack is so strong that you begin to avoid situations, places, and people that may trigger an attack, you may be diagnosed with panic disorder.
Know What To Do For Calming A Panic Attack
Now you have some effective ways of calming a panic attack.
We understand its a highly unpleasant and scary thing to go through, which is why we hope the above tips have helped. But one of the most important things in handling an anxiety attack is to have the aid of a professional therapist.
With their help, you can learn even more effective ways of dealing with these panic attacks so they arent as detrimental to your life. In addition, they can help you pinpoint your sources of anxiety and give you effective ways to deal with them so your chances of anxiety attacks are decreased for the future.
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Who Gets Panic Attacks
At least 6 million Americans suffer from panic attacks and panic disorder both conditions classified as anxiety disorders. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , about 2-3% of Americans experience panic disorder in a given year and it is twice as common in women as in men. Panic disorder typically affects individuals when theyre in their 20s but is also seen in young children, adolescents, and older adults.
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.
If youre agoraphobic, youre afraid of having a panic attack in a situation where escape would be difficult or embarrassing. You may also be afraid of having a panic attack where you wouldnt be able to get help. Because of these fears, you start avoiding more and more situations.
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.
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Take Charge With The Venue
A guy once asked me to go bowling on a first date. Yeah, no thanks! I was nervous enough as it was without having to worry about being terrible at bowling. If a particular setting puts you on edge, you can always laugh the request off and say something like, Maybe on the second date! Then, suggest somewhere youd feel more comfortable going.
Is It Panic Disorder
If you feel constantly stressed and anxious, particularly about when your next panic attack may be, you may have panic disorder.
People with panic disorder may avoid situations that might cause a panic attack. They may also fear and avoid public spaces .
“There’s no quick fix, but if your attacks are happening time after time, seek medical help,” says Professor Salkovskis.
Read more about panic attacks, including personal stories, at See Me Scotland.
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S For Getting Through A Panic Attack
“It feels like I’m dying.” Those are the words people use to describe what a panic attack feels like. The process of addressing and managing them is a journey there’s no immediate cure or course of action that will stop a panic attack in its tracks.
It takes time, patience and dedication to identify your unique triggers. However, there are steps that serve as preemptive measures to help shorten the duration of a panic attack when it is occurring, and reduce the frequency and severity of your anxiety in the long term.
How To Handle A Panic Attack
Professor Paul Salkovskis, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Applied Science at the University of Bath, says it’s important not to let your fear of panic attacks control you.
“Panic attacks always pass and the symptoms are not a sign of anything harmful happening,” he says. “Tell yourself that the symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by anxiety.”
He says don’t look for distractions. “Ride out the attack. Try to keep doing things. If possible, it’s important to try to remain in the situation until the anxiety has subsided.”
“Confront your fear. If you don’t run away from it, you’re giving yourself a chance to discover that nothing’s going to happen.”
As the anxiety begins to pass, start to focus on your surroundings and continue to do what you were doing before.
“If youre having a short, sudden panic attack, it can be helpful to have someone with you, reassuring you that it will pass and the symptoms are nothing to worry about,” says Professor Salkovskis.
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Other Causes Of Anxiety Attack Symptoms
Hyperventilation is not the only cause of anxiety attack symptoms either. Anxiety and stress have a tendency to cause your body to experience very strange sensations – often sensations that differ from person to person. Some people may feel like they can’t lift their head, or that something is wrong with their brain – these are all issues that may be caused by anxiety stress.
In addition, anxiety has a tendency to cause the brain to focus on sensations that would otherwise be normal. This is the result of over-sensitization – your mind is so tuned in to your body that it notices very small sensations that someone without anxiety would otherwise ignore.
Finally, the fear of getting anxiety attack symptoms can also trigger the symptoms. It’s unclear why this occurs, but most likely it is psychosomatic in some way .
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.
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Get A Breath Of Fresh Air
Another one of my favourite techniques for overcoming anxiety is simply nothing more than getting a breath of fresh air. It is completely normal to say, Excuse me. Im going to go get a breath of fresh air, when youre out with your friends or family. So, dont worry about what people will think. Everyone desires some fresh air once in a while.
So, crack open a window or slip outside for a couple of minutes. The air will provide you with a steady supply of oxygen, which your brain needs to work efficiently especially when your panic attack is giving it a run for its money. The air also has a calming effect on your mind, body, and soul. So, take deep breaths and relish from this natural treatment for anxiety.
What Does A Panic Attack Feel Like
The first step in managing a panic attack is being able to recognize when it’s happening.
Panic attacks can impact the entire body and mind and, along with physical symptoms, bring about feelings of doom, dread, and intense fear. They usually come on without warning, and their cause may be unknown.
Panic attacks can be so distressing that they can cause the person to feel as though they are dying, and the experience of having a panic attack can bring about additional fear or anxiety of future panic attacks.
When panic attacks continue to occur over time, it could be a sign of a panic disorder.
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What Anxiety Attacks Feel Like
Because of the very physical nature of anxiety attacks, they often are mistaken for some type of serious illness, and in some cases they may create a feeling of health anxiety. For many, the experience of an anxiety attack resembles that of more serious diseases, such as:
- Brain Tumors
- Heart Failure
Those who only experience an anxiety attack once may overcome it and their fears of a health problem may dissipate. For others, the experience of an anxiety attack may be so pronounced that it creates serious health fears that lead to hospitalization or several visits to the doctor.
It should be noted that only a doctor can rule out more serious conditions, so there is no harm in seeing the doctor for both a medical opinion of the causes of your experiences and to ease your mind. But note that when you suffer from anxiety attacks it can be very difficult for a doctor to convince you that you that you are healthy. Treating anxiety attacks is often the only way to find relief.