Recognize That Youre Having A Panic Attack
Take away the fear that you may be dying or that impending doom is looming, both symptoms of panic attacks. This can allow you to focus on other techniques to reduce your symptoms.
It is not always possible to avoid triggers for a panic attack, but if you know what triggers it, this can help you understand that it is a panic attack and not something else.
What Happens Inside Your Body
Your bodyâs âfight or flightâ response is behind these intense physical symptoms. Normally when you encounter a threat — whether itâs a grizzly bear or a swerving car — your nervous system springs into action. The hormone adrenaline floods into your bloodstream, putting your body on high alert. Your heartbeat quickens, which sends more blood to your muscles. Your breathing becomes fast and shallow, so you can take in more oxygen. Your blood sugar spikes. Your senses get sharper.
All of these changes — which happen in an instant — give you the energy you need to confront a dangerous situation or get out of harmâs way quickly.
With random panic attacks, your body goes on alert for no reason. Researchers donât know exactly what triggers them. But the physical effects are real: During a panic attack, the adrenaline levels in the body can spike by 2 1/2 times or more.
Panic attacks may not come as unexpectedly as they seem. The physical changes may start about an hour before an attack. In one study, people with panic disorder wore devices that tracked their heart activity, sweating, and breathing. The results showed lower-than-normal levels of carbon dioxide, a sign of rapid, deep breathing that can leave you breathless, as early as about 45 minutes before the panic attack.
Treatment For Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
The most effective form of professional treatment for tackling panic attacks, panic disorder, and agoraphobia is therapy. 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.
Panic attacks: what they are and what to do about them Free course to help you manage panic.
Panic Disorder Explanatory video from Khan Academy and American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
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.
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What These Factors Have In Common
What causes panic attacks to invade a person’s life? Genetic predisposition, early childhood experience with anxiety and risk, and challenging changes on becoming an independent adult.
What these three factors have in common is that none of them were under your own control. These are all developmental events in life which happen to some people. The factors which cause panic attacks are not something you could have controlled.
There is therefore no reason to feel guilty, ashamed, or apologetic about having panic attacks. They are not the result of living badly or of making bad choices or of being “stupid”, or cowardly.
Theres Definitely Life After Panic Attacks
Sideman says that his recovery has also made him a better friend. While he was struggling with anxiety, he would call friends for help. As he recovered, he realized that he could cope on his own and would then call them to share his success.
I changed the way I talked about my condition, he says. Now, I focus on my recovery, not my suffering.
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When Should You Seek Help
A small portion of people who experience panic attacks may go on to develop a panic disorder.
Panic attacks may become frequent and lead a person to avoid situations they perceive as high risk.
In this case the panic attacks become a panic disorder, and it would be useful to seek expert help from a registered mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.
The most effective treatment for panic disorder is psychological therapy with or without antidepressants.
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Causes Of Panic Attacks
Panic attacks that occur at night are sometimes referred to as nocturnal panic attacks. These can either occur as you are trying to get to sleep, or while you are asleep causing you to suddenly wake up during the onset of a panic attack.
Often panic attacks that take the latter form are the result of night terrors. Night terrors are a type of sleep disorder which cause fear and dread during the first hours of stage 3-4 NREM sleep. Night terrors are common in children and can result in patients waking up screaming and crying with a fever. They can also occur in adults however and particularly during times of stress or insomnia. Night terrors can also coincide with nightmares and result in many of the same fight or flight symptoms associated with stress and which are known to cause panic attacks.
When youre lying alone in the dark trying to get to sleep, you will be much more likely to hear your own heart rate and to focus on it especially if you notice it starting to get quicker or louder. As a result, you will become more likely to convince yourself that you may be having some kind of heart attack. At the same time, youll be more likely to notice your chest tightening and your breath speeding up.
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How Do You Know Youre Having A Panic Attack
An anxiety or panic attack often comes on suddenly, with symptoms peaking within 10 minutes. For doctors to diagnose a panic attack, they look for at least four of the following signs: sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, a choking sensation, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, fear of losing your mind, fear of dying, feeling hot or cold, numbness or tingling, a racing heart , and feeling unusually detached from yourself.
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.”
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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.
What Causes A Panic Attack
Panic attacks can have a number of causes. Symptoms of panic attacks can occur both when youre in a calm state or an anxious state.
While panic attacks typically stem from panic disorder, they can also occur as a result of another mental health condition. For example, if you struggle with a social anxiety disorder, you may experience a panic attack when giving a speech in front of an audience. You could also suffer panic symptoms as someone with the obsessive-compulsive disorder if you cant carry out your rituals or compulsions.
It is not precisely clear what causes of panic attacks and panic disorders. Having said that, panic disorder can run in families. Research also finds that major life events and social anxiety triggers can play a role, including:
- Starting college or graduating from college
- Entering the workplace
- Withdrawal from medication
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Breathing Exercise For Panic Attacks
If youre breathing quickly during a panic attack, doing a breathing exercise can ease your other symptoms. Try this:
- breathe in as slowly, deeply and gently as you can, through your nose
- breathe out slowly, deeply and gently through your mouth
- some people find it helpful to count steadily from one to five on each in-breath and each out-breath
- close your eyes and focus on your breathing
You should start to feel better in a few minutes. You may feel tired afterwards.
Visit the No Panic website for another breathing exercise to calm panic.
Panic Attacks: What Happens In Your Body When You Have On
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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 .
When To Talk To Your Doctor
Experiencing shortness of breath or hyperventilating during a panic attack can be terrifying. Because panic attacks and panic disorder can be associated with other underlying diseases or disorders, it’s important to speak with your doctor so they can identify what is causing your shortness of breath.
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Helping Someone Who Is Having A Panic Attack
Dont diagnose a panic attack in someone else, but learning to recognize the symptoms will help you better support someone whos in distress. When speaking to them, remain calm and use a calm voice. You can help in the following five ways:
Dont Fight A Panic Attack
Fighting a panic attack can often make it worse. Trying to resist the attack and finding youre 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 isnt life-threatening. Focus on the fact that the attack will evetually end and try your best to let it pass.
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What Causes Shortness Of Breath
Breathing can be a good marker for an individual’s internal state, so it makes sense that if an individual is experiencing panic, anxiety, and/or high levels of stress, their breathing will reflect that. According to research, changes in breathing can trigger a panic attack, increase levels of anxiety, and intensify a panic attack that has already begun. Studies indicate that:
- Shortness of breath is linked to the body’s fight or flight response as the body attempts to take in more oxygen and prepares to defend itself.
- Shortness of breath in the context of panic attacks and panic disorder have a genetic and/or hormonal component.
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.
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Panic Attack Signs And Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a panic attack develop abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. They rarely last more than an hour, with most ending within 20 to 30 minutes. Panic attacks can happen anywhere and at any time. You may have one while youre in a store shopping, walking down the street, driving in your car, or even sitting on the couch at home.
Panic attack symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Heart palpitations or racing heart
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy
Is it a heart attack or a panic attack?
Most of the symptoms of a panic attack are physical, and many times these symptoms are so severe that you may think youre having a heart attack. In fact, many people suffering from panic attacks make repeated trips to the doctor or the emergency room in an attempt to get treatment for what they believe is a life-threatening medical problem. While its important to rule out possible medical causes of symptoms such as chest pain, elevated heart rate, or difficulty breathing, its often panic that is overlooked as a potential causenot the other way around.
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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