Causes Of Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Although the exact causes of panic attacks and panic disorder are unclear, the tendency to have panic attacks runs in families. There also appears to be a connection with major life transitions such as graduating from college and entering the workplace, getting married, or having a baby. Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss can also trigger panic attacks.
Panic attacks can also be caused by medical conditions and other physical causes. If youre suffering from symptoms of panic, its important to see a doctor to rule out the following possibilities:
How To Deal With Panic Attacks
A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense anxiety.
Panic attacks can also have physical symptoms, including shaking, feeling disorientated, nausea, rapid, irregular heartbeats, dry mouth, breathlessness, sweating and dizziness.
The symptoms of a panic attack are not dangerous, but can be very frightening.
They can make you feel as though you are having a heart attack, or that you are going to collapse or even die.
Most panic attacks last somewhere from five minutes to half an hour.
Panic Disorder In Children
Panic disorder is more common in teenagers than in younger children.
Panic attacks can be particularly hard for children and young people to deal with. Severe panic disorder may affect their development and learning.
If your child has the signs and symptoms of panic disorder, they should see a GP.
After taking a detailed medical history the GP will carry out a thorough physical examination to rule out any physical causes for the symptoms.
They may refer your child to a specialist for further assessment and treatment. The specialist may recommend a course of CBT for your child.
Screening for other anxiety disorders may also be needed to help find the cause of your child’s panic attacks.
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Treatment For Panic And Anxiety
Whether youre dealing with panic, persistent anxiety, or both, effective treatments are available. Some of the most common treatment options include therapy, prescription medications, and self-help strategies. You may decide to try one or a combination of these methods.
- Psychotherapy can help better you understand your symptoms, develop ways to manage them, work through past pain, determine your path for the future, and gain a clearer perspective that will allow for a more hopeful outlook.
- Medicationscan assist you in reducing your symptoms. They may only be needed for a short period of time to control symptoms while you work on the other long-term strategies.
- Self-help techniques, such as breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation, can also be beneficial in allowing you to work through symptom management at your own pace.
Treatment Options For Panic Disorder Or Panic Attacks
While it may seem like something you just have to live with, panic attacks and panic disorder are treatable, and programs that include things like cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy and medications in their treatment plans can make a big difference in lowering the frequency and intensity of panic attacks and increase your overall quality of life. In many cases, its a combination of medication and therapy that helps people be able to start controlling their panic disorder symptoms and get back to a more normal life. Panic disorders can also be a long-term issue that may never completely go away. Medication and therapy strategies may have to be evaluated and adjusted over the years to ensure everything is working the way its supposed to.
Its also not uncommon for people with panic disorders to have other mental health issues or to attempt to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, which can lead to a substance abuse issue. In these cases, the treatment plan will need to address these co-existing issues for the highest probability of long-term success.
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What Do Panic Attacks Feel Like
During a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up very quickly. These can include:
- a pounding or racing heartbeat
- feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
- feeling very hot or very cold
- sweating, trembling or shaking
- pain in your chest or abdomen
- struggling to breathe or feeling like you’re choking
- feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly
- feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings, which are types of dissociation.
During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you’re:
Anxiety And Panic Attacks
Explains anxiety and panic attacks, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
Mae’r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg. This link will take you to a Welsh translation of this page.
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I Thought I Was Having A Heart Attack
Nicholas Ruggiero, 42, Dumfries, Va.
Police Sgt. Nicholas Ruggiero was packing his lunch for work one morning in October 2018 when his heart started dancing in his chest.
He felt hot and sweaty, and he couldn’t catch his breath. Then the room began to spin. As he fell to the floor, his wife called 911.
“I actually thought I was having a heart attack, Ruggiero remembers.
An ambulance rushed him to the hospital, where we underwent a full workup. Afterward, the doctor gave Ruggiero an unexpected diagnosis: He was having a panic attack.
“At first, I just started laughing, Ruggiero says. As a police officer, I’d been in a lot of stressful situations shooting scenes, homicides and I had never panicked. How could I be having a panic attack?
It turned out that the stress of his job had built up over time and triggered the attack. In the two years since, Ruggiero estimates he has had another 100 panic attacks, but medication and lifestyle changes have helped make them less frequent.
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.
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.
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Slow Deep Breathing Is Key But You Should Practice Every Day
Long, deep breaths calm your body down, but they can be tricky to implement if youre not used to doing them. Dr. Schaeffer suggests that to make this practice easier, you should do it daily anxious or not.
Practice full-body breathing every day, he tells NBC News BETTER. Breathe in deeply through your nose and imagine your whole body filling up with air like a balloon. Next, make your mouth small like you are exhaling through a straw. Slowly exhale through your mouth until you feel like all the air has completely emptied from your body. Repeat this about 10 times and notice any changes in your heart rate or body tension. Once you are comfortable with this kind of breathing, use it during a panic attack to slow your heart rate and calm down.
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Symptoms Of Panic Attacks
Despite being valid fearsthe panic you feel at missing the bus to school, or realizing that your wallet is back home while dining out, does not automatically translate into a panic attack.
A panic attack is described as an intense feeling of fear or discomfort, which may occur without any known cause of danger. These attacks can affect anyone from children and teenagers to grown adults. Regardless of who is going through the crippling fear of an attack, however, these feelings typically do not last longer than a few minutes.
Within that timeframe, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders notes that the following symptoms may be observed:
- Heart palpitations or a quickened heart rate
- Chills or hot flashes
Despite feeling intense and worrying, the symptoms of a panic attack will usually peter out after minutes. However, there are instances where panic attacks may occur several times a day, or as infrequently as a few attacks a year.
Understandably, these symptomsespecially when unexpected, can cause a persistent fear of repeat attacks, leading to a panic disorder.
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.
How Do I Know When My Anxiety Needs Treatment
Any time a mental health issue such as anxiety gets so far out of hand that it disrupts your daily life, its time to get help. Especially if one or more symptoms cause you a lot of distress and worry, you should seek treatment before your symptoms get worse.
Most mental health disorders exist on a spectrum. For some people, symptoms are less severe and respond well to outpatient treatment. But for many others, its going to take intensive treatment to make headways into recovery. Particularly if youve tried outpatient therapy and it hasnt worked, residential treatment could be your best option.
But how do you know when your anxiety is severe and lasting enough to qualify as an actual disorder? Its impossible to pinpoint without a clinician, but you can learn to spot the same signs a clinician would look for.
What Causes Panic Attacks At Night
Experts dont know why some people experience panic attacks. Something affects how your brain and nervous system perceive and process fear and anxiety. Most panic attacks happen during the day, usually when a nonthreatening situation triggers a panic response. Similarly, nocturnal panic attacks dont have a basis in the situation.
The Panic Attack From Nowhere
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I received a phone call one night last week from somebody experiencing a traumatic event and she was absolutely terrified. She was undergoing a panic attack that came out of nowhere.
There she was sitting on a train travelling to see a friend. Suddenly, a wave of panic overcomes her her heart raced, her pulse throbbed, the world spun, heat poured through her body and she could hardly catch her breath. She was terrified. Feeling so out of control. It was by far the worst feeling she had ever experienced.
This was the first time she had ever experienced a panic attack. It caught her totally off guard. At the time it really scared her, and now after she is really worried about it happening again. She is very much on edge about this possibility.
I know shes not alone. This happens to so many people. The good news is that panic attacks can be overcome.
Usually it is a lot of different factors that end up leading up to an attack. In the main its all the stress they are under that just seems to build up and eventually explode.
Here are 10 ways to Stop Panic Attacks.
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How To Cope With A Panic Attack
If you or someone you know is experiencing a panic attack, psychologist Sabina Read suggests:
- using relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, focusing on something outside your body like a tree blowing in the wind, or trying 3 repeats of counting backwards from 100.
- reminding yourself that although the symptoms are uncomfortable, theyre not life-threatening, the panic attack will end, and the feelings will pass.
- avoiding fleeing from the situation and talking yourself out of having the feelings of panic. By allowing the attack to pass on its own, youll feel more confident you can handle the symptoms if it happens again.
Now I know the feelings before they start, I focus on things around me and take really deep breaths, says Claire. If that doesnt work, Ill find a crunchy food like a biscuit and the motion from my jaw and the noise can help lessen the impact.
To prevent panic attacks some strategies are:
- doing regular mindfulness or meditation
- exercising regularly
- talking to a friend or loved one about how youre feeling
- practicing breathing exercises so when you feel panic rising you can ease symptoms before they become severe
I wish my parents encouraged more conversations, Gen says. I wish they suggested going for a walk or for a drive to initiate conversation. I think if wed had more conversations, I would have known I could be vulnerable with them.
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.
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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.
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Panic Attacks That Strike Out Of The Blue Could Be This Diagnosis
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that around 6 million people are currently living with a panic disorder. While panic disorders also involve other issues and symptoms, one of the biggest markers is experiencing panic attacks. Having a panic attack, or even a few, throughout the course of your life doesnt necessarily indicate that you have a panic disorder, but if you deal with panic attacks frequently, heres what you need to know.