How Is Panic Disorder Diagnosed
Medical or mental health providers can diagnose panic disorder. Your provider may diagnose panic disorder when you have repeated panic attacks and you:
- Persistently worry about having more panic attacks or their consequences.
- Obsess about losing control during a panic attack.
- Change your behaviors to avoid situations that may trigger a panic attack.
Don’t Fight A Panic Attack
Fighting a panic attack can often make it worse. Trying to resist the attack and finding you’re unable to can increase your sense of anxiety and panic.
Instead, during a panic attack, reassure yourself by accepting that although it may seem embarrassing, and your symptoms may be difficult to deal with, the attack isn’t life-threatening. Focus on the fact that the attack will evetually end and try your best to let it pass.
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.
Read Also: What Is The Phobia Of Throwing Up Called
Answers To Your Questions About Panic Disorder
Answers to your questions about panic disorder.
Panic Disorder is a serious condition that around one out of every 75 people might experience. It usually appears during the teens or early adulthood, and while the exact causes are unclear, there does seem to be a connection with major life transitions that are potentially stressful: graduating from college, getting married, having a first child, and so on. There is also some evidence for a genetic predisposition if a family member has suffered from panic disorder, you have an increased risk of suffering from it yourself, especially during a time in your life that is particularly stressful.
A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. It is far more intense than the feeling of being “stressed out” that most people experience. Symptoms of a panic attack include:
hot flashes, or sudden chills
tingling in fingers or toes
fear that you’re going to go crazy or are about to die
You probably recognize this as the classic “flight or fight” response that human beings experience when we are in a situation of danger. But during a panic attack, these symptoms seem to rise from out of nowhere. They occur in seemingly harmless situations–they can even happen while you are asleep.
In addition to the above symptoms, a panic attack is marked by the following conditions:
The answer to this is a resounding YES — if they receive treatment.
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.
Recommended Reading: What Is The Phobia For Long Words
Common Panic Attack Myths
If You Or Anyone You Know Needs Help:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
When the panic attack happened, I stepped out of the meeting, out of the office, and took an hour out to settle myself before getting back to work. That was that, as far as I was concerned.
Still, I couldn’t help but wonder: what will they think of me? Will they think I can’t cope? That I’m not up to the job? Will they regret giving me that recent promotion? How will they react to this?
Psychologist Marny Lishman says that lots of people don’t know how to react to seeing someone have a panic attack.
“It doesn’t come naturally to most people, and unless someone has experienced it themselves or understand what’s happening they may run away from the situation,” Dr Lishman says.
This was certainly my experience: I faced reactions that ranged from support to ignoring it to suggesting I wasn’t up to the job.
Recommended Reading: What Is The Definition Of Phobia
What Happens If Panic Attacks Go Untreated
Frequent panic attacks are diagnosed as panic disorder. If left untreated, the individual may develop phobias such as agoraphobia or the fear of leaving the home. The individual may also develop mood disorders including depression and anxiety, or even suicidal ideation. He or she will want to avoid social situations and may turn to substance use or alcohol use.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
Asking questions and providing information to your doctor or health care provider can improve your care. Talking with your doctor builds trust and leads to better results, quality, safety, and satisfaction. Visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website for tips at .
Also Check: Charles Manson Mental Diagnosis
Recovering From Panic Attacks: 2 Treatment Options
Several treatment options are available to facilitate recovery from panic attacks and panic disorder.
The process of determining which treatment is best is different for everyone, and ongoing consultation with your primary healthcare provider is essential in ensuring that your plan is effective for your specific situation.
A combination of therapy and medication is considered the best long-term solution for most mental health disorders, including chronic panic attacks.
Below are a few therapeutic treatment options to support individuals experiencing severe anxiety leading to chronic panic attacks.
Panic Attacks Vs Anxiety Attacks
Panic and anxiety are often used interchangeably to describe chronic feelings of fear, dread, and unease. However, anxiety and panic attacks are very different feelings.
Therefore, it is important to understand the classifications of both panic and anxiety.
An anxiety attack is actually not classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . Anxiety is a chronic condition characterized by excessive worry over an upcoming event or situation .
Let me give you an example. Someone who is fearful of social situations might experience reoccurring anxious thoughts about social gatherings or interactions.
Due to its chronic nature, the term anxiety attack is shorthand for describing experiencing symptoms of anxiety.
Panic attacks, on the other hand, come on suddenly and are an immediate response to a fearful situation. The bodys fight-or-flight response is the primary cause behind the onset of a panic attack.
More specifically, the body is responding to a perceived threat and attempts to escape to avoid the frightening situation or stimuli .
So, even though that same individual might experience chronic anxiety when entering social situations, a more immediately distressing event, like a social event where they do not know anyone, may cause a panic attack.
Panic attacks are classified by their immediacy and sudden onset, which can cause the individual experiencing them to question what caused them in the first place.
Don’t Miss: Depression Terrain Feature
What Can Clients Do During An Attack
The exercises described above are essential tools for reducing the likelihood of a panic attack occurring, recovering from the aftermath, and fostering better psychological wellbeing. However, they can also be used during a panic attack to reduce its severity and duration.
As soon as your client feels the onset of a panic attack, they should begin by grounding themselves, affirming that they are experiencing a panic attack, immediately creating some psychological distance, and identifying a panic attack as something that is happening to them. Once they have done this, their focus should be on managing the intense physical pain and anxiety they will be experiencing.
This is a Herculean task, and your client should realize that success is not making the panic attack disappear, but just making it a little more controlled.
They should use their controlled breathing exercises to soothe the brain, soften the alarm signals being sent by the body, and reduce the spiraling sensation of a panic attack. They should affirm that they are safe and that the panic attack will pass, labeling their emotions as calmly as possible to increase the psychological distance they created initially.
Top 3 Exercises For Relieving Anxiety
The exercises discussed above are useful tools your client can use to prevent and control a panic attack.
They might also find it useful to know techniques for managing generalized anxiety that might exist in the broader context of their panic attacks.
As you learned above, anxiety can act as a sensitizing factor, making it more likely for a panic attack to occur. In a more general sense, your client may find it easier to engage with their therapy and maintain a positive attitude if they feel confident controlling their everyday mental health.
Don’t Miss: Define Aerophobia
Always Seek Professional Advice
Always seek medical advice if you are not sure whether your symptoms, or another persons symptoms, indicate a panic attack. In an emergency, dial triple zero for an ambulance. Its important to see your doctor for a check-up to make sure that any recurring physical panic-like symptoms are not due to illnesses, including:
What Else Should I Know About Panic Disorder
People with panic disorder may be extremely anxious and fearful, since they are unable to predict when the next episode will occur. Panic disorder is fairly common and affects about 6 million adults in the U.S. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the condition, and its symptoms usually begin in early adulthood.
It is not clear what causes panic disorder. In many people who have the biological vulnerability to panic attacks, they may develop in association with major life changes and major lifestyle stressors. There is also some evidence that suggests that the tendency to develop panic disorder may run in families. People who suffer from panic disorder are also more likely than others to suffer from depression, attempt suicide, or to abuse alcohol or drugs.
Fortunately, panic disorder is a treatable condition. Psychotherapy and medications have both been used, either singly or in combination, for successful treatment of panic disorder. If medication is necessary, your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications, certain antidepressants or sometimes certain anticonvulsant drugs that also have anti-anxiety properties, or a class of heart medications known as beta-blockers to help prevent or control the episodes in panic disorder.
Recommended Reading: Definition Phobia
What Triggers A Panic Attack
Regardless of who they happen to or how they manifest, panic attacks do not happen in a vacuum. Although panic attacks are often unpredictable and seem spontaneous, there are nevertheless risk factors that act as potential panic attack triggers.
Negative mood is a situational factor that contributes to the increased likelihood of experiencing a panic attack. In contrast, an individuals general level of anxiety is a less specific factor that can work in the background and increase the likelihood of panic attacks regardless of situational factors.
In other words, it can be useful to think of anything that causes negative mood as a trigger , while general levels of anxiety can be thought as a magnifying lens that turn seemingly innocuous events into potential triggers.
These general triggers are useful for understanding the psychological origin of a panic attack. However, they may miss some of the spontaneity and confusion of how panic attacks manifest in day-to-day life, where triggers may be harder to identify and the timeline of a panic attack does not necessarily follow a neat beginning, middle, and end.
An individual interviewed by Woodgate, Tennent, Barriage, and Legras described the onset of their panic attack:
I was just walking down the street and then these guys walked past me and theyre like Whats up? and I started panicking.
When Might I Have Panic Attacks
Panic attacks happen at different times for everyone. Some people have one panic attack then don’t ever experience another, or you might find that you have them regularly, or several in a short space of time. You might notice that particular places, situations or activities seem to trigger panic attacks. For example, they might happen before a stressful appointment.
Most panic attacks last between 5 to 20 minutes. They can come on very quickly. Your symptoms will usually be at their worst within 10 minutes. You might also experience symptoms of a panic attack over a longer period of time. This could be because you’re having a second panic attack, or you’re experiencing other symptoms of anxiety.
“My panic attacks seem to come out of the blue now. But in fact, they seem to be triggered mainly at night when I want to go to sleep but cannot stop my mind racing, experiencing worry and panic about anything that may be on my mind.”
Don’t Miss: Bpd And Bipolar Comorbid
What Can I Do During A Panic Attack
When you feel a panic attack coming on, there are some quick strategies you can try.
If you have a friend with you, it can be helpful to tell them whats happening. They can reassure you it will pass and that the symptoms wont hurt you.
When Should I Call The Doctor
Some panic attacks have signs that can be confused with a physical problem like a heart attack. If you have chest pain or trouble breathing or lose consciousness, seek emergency medical care.
You should call your healthcare provider if you have panic attacks and experience:
- Chronic anxiety that interferes with daily life.
- Difficulty concentrating.
Recommended Reading: Can Anxiety Cause Burning Skin
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 .
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.
You May Like: The Meaning Of Phobia