The feeling when a person is overcome by a huge surge of fear and anxiety is referred to as a ‘panic attack’. During such an attack, you will have difficulty breathing and the heart beats much faster (severe palpitations). Some even assume that they are losing their mind, while others feel that this is the end of their life. If such extreme reactions are not treated on time, it can lead to a host of other medical issues, which includes panic disorder. Most people retreat into their shell and stop taking part in their day-to-day activities. However, by seeking treatment of the same, you will be able to get rid of the symptoms and get some control back in your lives.
Understanding Panic Attacks
A panic attack can happen suddenly and without any pre-existing symptoms. There are no reasons connected with these attacks. Occurrence of the same can happen when a person is sleeping or is in a relaxed state of mind. However, most attacks happen more than once in a person’s lifetime. People who keep experiencing repeat of such episodes need to seek help. Sometimes a situation may be the trigger for the repeated occurrence. Often, people describe the feeling of being trapped and not able to exit the situation in a calm and relaxed manner.
Most often, Patients can be healthy and yet experience multiple attacks. Other patients suffer from depression and a number of phobias that may lead to occurrence of such panic attacks.
Whatever the cause, these attacks can be treated. A number of methods and strategies will help patient’s deal with symptoms related to such attacks. Repetition of panic attacks at regular intervals will lead to Panic disorder. This is always preceded by changes in a person’s behavioral patterns and feelings of extreme anxiety during the onset of such attacks.
Signs and Symptoms of Panic Attacks
The development of symptoms associated with this disease is sudden. It can peak in a period of ten minutes. However, most patients experience such attacks for duration of 20-30 minutes. The extreme cases are prevalent for an hour.
So, how do you know when you experience a panic attack?
One combination is when you are out of breath or start hyperventilating. Some people feel their heart racing and may experience palpitations. Others may experience pain in their chest. Some patients may start shaking or trembling. Some may feel that they are being choked. Some may feel nauseous while some patients may start sweating. Some may feel faint or dizzy and some may experience numbness. Some can even experience a feeling of mental imbalance.
What Can Cause Panic Attacks?
Till date, the exact reason of panic attacks is not known. Studies show that panic tendencies can be passed on through the genes in a family. Studies have also shown that there is a connection between major events like graduation, marriage, birth, and first job etc… Events like loss of a job, divorce and death can act as a trigger for panic attacks.
There are a number of health issues that can also cause these panic attacks. Hence, it becomes important to have a health checkup to narrow down and eliminate any health scare. The following are the major causes of panic attacks:
- The first is Mitral valve prolapse.This is a condition in which the valves of the heart do not close in the proper manner.
- Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland is over active.
- Hypoglycemia is a condition associated with low levels of sugar in the blood.
- Stimulant use relates to excess intake of caffeine or regular intake of substances like cocaine.
- Medication withdrawal is a condition where the body reacts to sudden cessation of any long-term medication.
Treatment for Panic Attacks
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Treating Panic Attacks:
CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is considered as the best form of treatment. It is prescribed for people suffering from panic disorder and/or panic attacks. The therapy looks at behavioral reasons that cause such attacks. It focuses on helping the patient confront their fear under realistic terms.
Exposure Therapy for Treating Panic Attacks:
In this therapy, a person is placed in an environment that is controlled and extremely safe. They are then exposed to the triggers that cause the attacks. This allows them to learn healthier methods to cope with the same. The patient is asked to stimulate a number of symptoms like hyperventilation or shortness of breath. As the exposure increases, the patient is taught how to control the sense of panic that arises with each symptom.
Medications for Treating Panic Attacks:
Medications are used to treat the physical symptoms that trigger panic attacks:
- Antidepressants: These help with the feelings of depression that arise. However, they have to be taken regularly and before the start of the above mentioned treatments.
- Benzodiazepines: These are fast acting drugs. They dissipate the symptoms within a period of thirty minutes. However, they are highly addictive and should be used with caution.
10 Tips to Recover from Panic Attacks
- Learn About Panic Disorder: It is important to learn about the panic attacks/disorder in detail. Understanding the same will help you immensely to react in a normal manner.
- There Is A Three Step Process: Start by educating yourself about the disorder. Search and teach yourself techniques related to behavioral modifications and breathing skills. In the final step, seek help from your therapist to increase exposure to the symptoms in order to control them.
- Avoidance Is Your Enemy: Never dismiss the symptoms as a one off. Understand what situations cause panic attacks. Try to incorporate the same as much as possible in your daily routine. Running away from your fears will only cause more problems.
- Change Your Breathing Pattern: Learning to breathe correctly is important. Sharp shallow breaths should be replaced with longer breathing techniques. This will help you relax and avoid feeling of panic.
- Change the Way You Think: With the assistance of your therapist, focus on altering your thought patterns. It is important to replace negative feelings of doom with positive thoughts at all times.
- Take Medications As Decided: This is not the ultimate cure. However, it will help alleviate physical symptoms to ensure that you are healthier thus helping you fight off the attacks.
- Create Support through Family, Friends, and Peer Support Groups: Involve your near and dear ones to help you through this struggle. Their support and encouragement will help you greatly.
- Be Hopeful: Do not assume that it is a short term process. At the same time, it is important not to panic and keep a calm head. Create long term goals that will help you remain healthy and deal with occurrence of the panic attacks.
- Maintain A Journal: Note down instances and triggers that cause panic attacks. Work with your therapist to identify recurring themes and places. This will also serve as a reminder for you as you progress through the treatment.
- Use Stress Management Techniques: Regular Aerobic exercise combined with meditation is necessary for managing stress. Simultaneously, it is important not to be over dependent on medication and drugs to calm ones nerves.