Some People May Develop Panic Disorders
For many people, the feelings of panic occur only occasionally during periods of stress or illness. A person who experiences recurring panic attacks is said to have panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder. They generally have recurring and unexpected panic attacks and persistent fears of repeated attacks.
How To Help Someone Having A Panic Attack
Seeing a friend or loved one suffering a panic attack can be frightening. Their breathing may become abnormally fast and shallow, they could become dizzy or light-headed, tremble, sweat, feel nauseous, or think they’re having a heart attack. No matter how irrational you think their panicked response to a situation is, it’s important to remember that the danger seems very real to your loved one. Simply telling them to calm down or minimizing their fear won’t help. But by helping your loved one ride out a panic attack, you can help them feel less fearful of any future attacks.
Stay calm yourself. Being calm, understanding, and non-judgmental will help your loved one’s panic subside quicker.
Focus your loved one on their breathing. Find a quiet place for your friend to sit and then guide them to take slow, deep breaths for a few minutes.
Do something physical. Together, raise and lower your arms or stamp your feet. It can help to burn off some of your loved one’s stress.
Get your friend out of their own head by asking them to name five things around them or talking soothingly about a shared interest.
Encourage your loved one to seek help. Once the panic attack is over, your loved one may feel embarrassed about having an attack in front of you. Reassure them and encourage them to seek help for their anxiety.
Panic attacks: what they are and what to do about them Free course to help you manage panic.
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.
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The Leading Causes Of Panic Attacks In The Elderly
When life presents stressful situations, drastic changes, or unusual circumstances, it is normal to experience a sense of nervousness and anxiety. Feelings of anxiousness can help us avoid danger and serves a fundamental role in survival. But when these feelings begin to dominate the way a person thinks and feels in everyday situations, it can become debilitating, hindering the quality of life. As one grows older, the quality of life becomes a significant factor in well-being and longevity. According to mental health experts, more than 27 percent of older adults under the care of an aging service provider have symptoms of anxiety that may not amount to the diagnosis of a disorder, but significantly impact their functioning.
The anxiety that interferes with daily life is not normal during the process of aging and can lead to increased health problems. Statistics show that 3 percent to 14 percent of older Americans have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. As the aging populations life span continues to increase, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of anxiety, methods in which it can be treated, and what loved ones can do to make the many transitions of aging manageable.
How To Help Someone Who Is Having A Panic Attack
It can be difficult to know what to do when someone has a panic attack, especially if you’re supporting a friend or family member, but there are things you can do to help.
- Stay with the person
If you can, stay with the person during their panic attack. Just by you being there, you can help them to calm down and remind them that help is available. It is okay if you are finding it overwhelming. You can find another friend, family member or teacher they trust to support your friend and you.
- Talk to them and encourage them
You can chat to the person about how they are feeling or anything that they like, such as favourite Netflix shows or their hobbies. This can distract them from their anxious thoughts, helping them to feel calm and to slow down their breathing. They might find it difficult to talk and might want to focus on their breath – thats okay and its important to respect their boundaries and how they are feeling.
- Check in with your friend
Even though your friend may no longer be panicking, they can still feel anxious or on edge afterwards. You can check in with them to see how they are feeling. This will remind them that they are not alone and you are there for them.
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Where Do I Go From Here
The best first step is always to talk to your doctor. They can help you decide which, if any, of the above treatments would be best for you.
Other helpful resources are:
AnxietyBCVisit www.anxietybc.com or call 604-525-7566 for community resources and lots of helpful information about panic disorder and other anxiety disorders, including strategies to try at home.
Canadian Mental Health Association, BC DivisionVisit www.cmha.bc.ca or call 1-800-555-8222 or 604-688-3234 for information and community resources.
BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions InformationVisit www.heretohelp.bc.ca for info sheets and personal stories about . Youll also find more information, tips and self-tests to help you understand many different mental health problems
Resources available in many languages:*For the service below, if English is not your first language, say the name of your preferred language in English to be connected to an interpreter. More than 100 languages are available.
HealthLink BCCall 811 or visit www.healthlinkbc.ca to access free, non-emergency health information for anyone in your family, including mental health information. Through 811, you can also speak to a registered nurse about symptoms youre worried about, or talk with a pharmacist about medication questions.
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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 .
“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.”
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Are There Clinical Trials Studying Panic Disorder
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.
What Are Panic Disorder Symptoms
A panic attack is a sudden strong feeling of fear that can happen anywhere, at any time. Youâll have four or more of these signs:
- A sense of approaching danger
- Pounding or fast heartbeat
- Shortness of breath or a feeling of being smothered
- Throat tightness
- A fear of losing control or going crazy
- A fear of dying
An attack usually passes in 5 to 10 minutes, but it can linger for hours. It can feel like youâre having a heart attack or a stroke. So people with panic attacks often wind up in the emergency room for evaluation.
Many people with panic disorder relate an attack to what they were doing when it happened. They may think the restaurant, elevator, or classroom caused the attack. Then they’ll avoid those places. That may lead to something called agoraphobia, the fear of leaving home or being in public places.
If you feel like you’re having a panic attack, see your doctor right away. They arenât dangerous, but they can get worse without treatment.
Also keep in mind that symptoms of a panic attack are similar to those for more serious conditions. If you’re not sure if what you’re having is a panic attack, call your doctor, just to be safe.
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Have Anxiety Or Panic Youre Far From Alone
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that some 40 million U.S. adults experience significant anxiety each year, with more than 28.8% of adults experiencing clinically meaningful anxiety symptoms.
Thats nearly one in three people.
Anxiety is Americas most common mental illness and can be treated effectively. However, only around one third of those with the condition seek professional help.
Anxiety disorders are hereditary, which means that if you have a relative with anxiety, you are more likely to experience it yourself.
Panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder, affects about 4.7% of U.S. adults at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
How Panic Attacks Work
This includes such questions as:
* What triggers a panic attack?
* What causes panic attacks to happen on some days, and in somesituations, but not others?
* Why would I have a panic attack one time I visit the grocerystore or drive on a highway, and not at the same place anotherday?
* Why do I have less trouble if my support person is with me?
* How do panic attacks end?
For a discussion of this question, I am making available here a free copy of Chapter 7 from myPanic Attacks Workbook. Feel free to download this chapter for your own personal use.
Click here to view or download the chapter.
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Getting Help For A Panic Disorder
You should be aware that in certain situations panic attacks may be unavoidable. A healthy combination of daily exercise and a balanced diet helps lessen the likelihood of a panic attack. Avoiding caffeinated beverages and taking herbal remedies may also help reduce stress and decrease the symptoms. It is important to find help on treating panic disorder for you or your loved one.
Recovering from panic disorder is difficult, if not impossible, without outside help. You can call us at to discuss panic disorder treatment options. In the meantime, you can start by creating an action plan to alleviate your anxiety, fear and panic attacks.
As advocates of mental health and wellness, we take great pride in educating our readers on the various online therapy providers available. PsychGuides has partnered with several thought leaders in the mental health and wellness space, so we can help you make informed decisions on your wellness journey. PsychGuides may receive marketing compensation from these companies should you choose to use their services.
Signs And Symptoms Of Panic Disorder
While many people experience just one or two panic attacks without further episodes or complicationsand there’s little reason to worry if that’s 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 aren’t 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 you’ve 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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Key Points About Panic Disorder
- Panic disorder is an overreaction of fear and anxiety to daily life stressors.
- The reaction causes a hyperphysical response, followed by intense worry that another attack will happen soon. This can upset the ability to function normally.
- It is a common disorder and can often lead to depression.
- Panic disorders can be disabling because you become so afraid of when the next panic attack may happen that you cant cope with regular tasks.
- Treatment involves use of anti-anxiety medicines and antidepressants along with cognitive behavioral therapy.
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Why Might I Have A Panic Attack
A panic attack can happen at any time or place, including at nighttime, and because it can happen quite quickly, it might feel unexpected.
Because a panic attack is an intense feeling of fear and anxiety, it often happens if you are feeling very anxious about something happening in your life, or you have experienced something difficult or stressful. This might be:
- a difficult situation at home that is making you anxious
- a frightening experience like abuse, or neglect
- feeling stressed about things like exams, work, friendships or relationships
- if you have lost a friend or family member
- if you are being bullied
- anxiety around school, college or university
There are many reasons why you might feel anxious and have a panic attack. Everyone has different experiences and thats okay. Sometimes, it might feel like there is no clear reason why you are having a panic attack.
Whats important is to try and understand what you might be feeling anxious or stressed about, and what types of situations or places can cause you to have panic attacks.
The first step to doing this is to talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member, teacher or GP. They can help you understand what you are experiencing and help you find the support you need.
I get a pounding heart and my breathing becomes rapid like I cant get any air in – it feels stuck in the back of my throat.
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Depression And Suicidal Ideation
Living with panic disorder and its associated mental health conditions can lead to a sense of hopelessness as it can make everyday life very difficult, particularly if those with the condition perceive others as coping well. It can create a belief that they are unable to cope with life which can lead to depression and even suicidal ideation.
When To Get Help
See a GP if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of panic disorder.
They’ll ask you to describe your symptoms, how often you get them, and how long you have had them.
They may also carry out a physical examination to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.
It can sometimes be difficult to talk about your feelings, emotions and personal life, but try not to feel anxious or embarrassed.
You may be diagnosed with panic disorder if you have regular and unexpected panic attacks followed by at least a month of continuous worry or concern about having further attacks.
Medication For Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Medication can be used to temporarily control or reduce some of the symptoms of panic disorder. However, it doesn’t treat or resolve the problem. Medication can be useful in severe cases, but it should not be the only treatment pursued. Medication is most effective when combined with other treatments, such as therapy and lifestyle changes, that address the underlying causes of panic disorder.
Medications used may include:
Antidepressants. It takes several weeks before antidepressants begin to work, so you have to take them continuously, not just during a panic attack.
Benzodiazepines. These are anti-anxiety drugs that act very quickly . Taking them during a panic attack provides rapid relief of symptoms. However, benzodiazepines are highly addictive and have serious withdrawal symptoms, so they should be used with caution.
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