Do you ever get a feeling of extreme dread and panic that continues for a while? You feel like your heart is racing, you can literally hear it pound in your ears. You’re sweating; seconds feel like hours and you can’t even breathe or think clearly.
Are you having a heart attack? Is something severely wrong with your body?
Well, you my friend are encountering panic attacks.
Do these attacks happen at inconvenient times with no evident reason? Are you worried about having an episode in the middle of a work day?
Panic disorder, when unaddressed, can reduce your standard of health by causing additional inconveniences in your professional and personal life. To overcome this terrifying disorder, you must be prepared.
And what better way to do that, than learning everything about it so you can be in control?
Let’s get started! Here’s everything you need to know about panic attacks.
A panic attack is a brief period of extreme anxiety that results in strong physical symptoms like not being able to breathe. These episodes take place often in the absence of any genuine danger or any actual cause.
Panic attacks can be terrifying for someone going through it. First-timers even believe they are suffering a heart attack or may be on the verge of death.
A healthy person rarely ever experiences one. But they might still have a panic attack when they are extremely stressed. Usually, the condition resolves itself when the stressful circumstance ends.
However, if you’re experiencing regular panic attacks, and can feel one coming in moments of stress, you may have panic disorder.
Even though panic attacks are not life-threatening, they may be terrifying and have a substantial influence on your quality of life. Panic attacks may happen at any time at any place. However, the good news is, you can definitely manage them.
Panic disorder is most commonly diagnosed in the adolescent years, and are known to affect more women than men. However, not everyone who has had a panic attack or two in the past develops a panic disorder.
It only becomes a disorder when it keeps happening repeatedly.
People suffering from panic disorder may exhibit the following symptoms:
- A sense of not having control of your own body.
- Physical symptoms of a panic attack include a racing or pounding heart, sweating, chills, shaking, breathing difficulties, weakness or dizziness, tingling or numb hands, chest discomfort, stomach discomfort, and numbness.
- Concern wondering when the next panic attack will occur.
- Avoiding places where panic episodes have happened in the past.
- Getting triggered by a certain situation.
You may hear people refer to anxiety attacks and panic attacks interchangeably. They are, however, two distinct situations!
Panic episodes occur unexpectedly and are characterized by strong and frequently overpowering terror. They are associated with terrifying bodily symptoms such as speeding heartbeat, chest tightness, or dizziness.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) identifies panic attacks by categorizing them as either sudden or predictable.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is defined as a symptom of a number of prominent mental illnesses in the DSM-5. Anxiety symptoms include stress, worry, and fear.
The DSM-5 however does not identify anxiety attacks. Anxiety is frequently associated with the preparation of a challenging task, activity, or event. It might happen slowly.
It might be tough to tell if you’re having an anxiety episode or a panic attack. Panic and anxiety episodes might feel quite similar at times as they both have a variety of symptoms in common.
You can even experience both at the same time. For example, you may feel anxious if you are worried about a stressful event coming up such as a job interview. The built-up anxiety may lead to having a panic attack when you have to go in for the interview.
While both can be extremely difficult to deal with, being able to distinguish them can help you find the solution faster. Here is what to look for:
- Anxiety is usually associated with anything difficult or scary. There are many kinds of anxiety-like social anxiety. Many factors can trigger an anxious response in a person. But stress factors do not usually trigger panic episodes. They usually happen out of nowhere.
- Anxiety levels can range from minor to extreme. Anxiety, for instance, can be there in the background of your thoughts when you go through your daily tasks. Panic attacks, on the other hand, are characterized by sudden, intense, intrusive symptoms.
- The brain’s independent fight-or-flight process takes over our mind during a panic attack episode. These are frequently more severe than anxiety symptoms.
- While anxiety might be building up progressively, panic attacks generally strike suddenly.
- Panic attacks often cause further anxiety or worry of having another episode. This may influence your behaviour, causing you to avoid locations or circumstances where you are uncomfortable.
There is no specific scientific evidence on what exactly causes panic attacks. Panic disorder can run in families, but no one understands why some members of the family have it and some don’t.
Specialists may be able to develop better therapies if they understand more about how the brain and body operate in individuals with panic disorder.
Researchers discovered that fear and anxiety are influenced by numerous regions of the brain as well as our physical biology. According to some experts, patients suffering from panic disorder mistake normal circumstances as hazards. Scientists are also investigating how stress and environmental variables could have a role.
There is no foolproof strategy to avoid panic attacks or cure panic disorder. These suggestions, on the other hand, may be useful:
- Get help for panic attacks as quickly as possible to prevent them from worsening and becoming more and more prevalent in your life.
- Maintain your treatment plan to avoid relapses or escalation of panic disorder symptoms.
- Engage in frequent physical activity, which may help to reduce stress.
Discuss your concerns with your therapist. Your doctor will then make a treatment plan depending on your symptoms. In case they can’t help you with your problems, they will refer you to someone who can.
Psychotherapy, medicine, or both are commonly used to treat panic disorder. Consult your doctor about the best treatment option for you.
While panic attacks are extremely unpleasant, you can absolutely live a better life if you address the issue. Discuss your concern with your doctor or mental health professional. Therapy and medication can definitely assist you in managing your stress and promote your mental health.