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All You Need to Know About Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder

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Fear and anxiety are natural if you are confronted with a dangerous situation. Also, these are good because such reactions have the potential to save us from the looming threat. But, how would you feel if the reactions are overwhelming and occur now and then? Such reactions are called Panic attacks.

It can be a terrifying experience as it happens anytime out of the blue without any substantial reason. We can say that it is a reaction towards a perceived threat, and the symptoms mimic the real response as if you are in a real threat.

The person experiencing panic attacks may feel as if something has gone severely wrong. If you are also feeling the same way, you may benefit from the information given in this blog; so, let’s quickly jump into the details:

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack could be characterized by intense fear or discomfort coupled with a variety of psychological and physical reactions that occur in response to a perceived threat. It can last for minutes. This feeling of terror can strike anytime, even during sleep.

The signs include rapid heart rate, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, hot flashes, and light headedness, chills, nausea, abdominal pain, chest pain, headache, and numbness or tingling.

What is Panic Disorder?

Recurrent unexpected panic attacks characterize the panic disorder. If you had experienced more panic attacks in the past, then you are diagnosed with the symptoms of panic disorder. These attacks are recurring in nature and can be extremely distressing, where the maximum degree of symptoms occur within minutes. The symptoms are similar to what happens during a panic attack.

When diagnosed with panic disorder, you may feel ongoing fears and worries about having further attacks. You tend to avoid going to places where the attack might have occurred in the past. Women usually experience these series of intense episodes of anxiety and panic attacks more than men.

What does a panic attack feel like?

When you have a panic attack, you may feel as if something has gone terrible or they are going to die. You may have self-doubt, or you may find some episodes extremely embarrassing. As a result, you may refrain from telling your friends, family, or mental health professional.

Panic Attack Symptoms

Here are some of the physical and psychological symptoms of panic attacks:

Physical Symptoms

● Palpitations,

● Pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate

● Sweating

● Trembling or shaking

● Shortness of breath

● Feelings of choking

● Chest pain or discomfort

● Dizziness,

● Unsteady,

● Light-headedness,

● Fainting

● Chills or heat sensations

● Numbness

● Tingling sensations

 Psychological Symptoms

● Fear of losing control over a particular situation

● Fear of death

● A sense of being detached from oneself or the surroundings

How Long Does a Panic Attack Last?

Usually, panic attacks reach their maximum degree within 10 minutes and may gradually begin to subside. They last for some minutes, maybe between 20 to 30 minutes.

What are the causes of panic attacks?

Negative emotions and sensitivity towards anxiety can be the significant reasons for panic attacks and panic disorder. Apart from this, sexual or physical abuse during childhood, smoking, and interpersonal stressors are some of the risk factors that contribute to the situation.

Furthermore, it is believed that genetics also play a crucial role in developing panic disorder. Individuals whose parents have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are also at a higher risk of developing panic disorder.

Moreover, some major life transitions, such as graduating from college and entering the workplace, getting married, or having a baby are also some of the significant reasons behind the entire scenario. Extreme stress, coupled with the fear of death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss, can also trigger panic attacks.

Also, medical conditions and other physical causes can trigger panic attacks. The underlying medical conditions include:

1. Cardiac issues

2. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland)

3. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

4. Stimulant use (amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine)

5. Medication withdrawal

Tips and Treatment for Panic Attacks

1. Always Have a Plan

A go-to set of instructions would help when you feel a panic attack coming on. Whenever you find yourself stressed out, always think of your plan as to how you would react in a particular situation. Either it could be the plan to get yourself out of the situation, sit down, or call a friend or a family member.

2. Practice Deep Breathing

Shortness of breath is a common symptom coupled with a feeling of losing control. Begin taking a deep breath in for four seconds, hold for a second, and release it. Keep repeating this pattern to control your breathing.

4. Positive Affirmations

Repeating positive affirmations to yourself during a panic attack would help you cope faster. Think that the current situation is temporary and you will be okay at some time.

5. Find an Object to Focus

Find an object from your surroundings to focus and try noting down everything you notice, from its color and size to any patterns. It will distract your mind and can stop the panic attack then and there.

Panic Attack Treatment

Psychotherapy and medication both are effective in treating panic attacks. However, your treatment depends on your personal preference, medical history, and the intensity of attacks.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective treatment where you will work with a therapist. The course of treatment may include the following:

● Relaxation training,

● Restructuring your thoughts and behaviors,

● Mindfulness,

● Exposure treatment,

● and stress reduction

It will take a couple of months with this treatment to reduce the severity of panic attacks. Also, your doctor might suggest some medication as part of your treatment.

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