What are Panic Attacks?
Panic attacks are experienced by people suffering from anxiety or depression and they can be very debilitating indeed. Panic attacks occur as a result of severe anxiety and stress; and can be very overwhelming causing severe emotional and physical responses in the body, such as shallow breathing, rapid breathing, chest pain, weakness, sweating, palpitations etc.(1, 4) In some patients, panic attacks can feel as if their brain is firing everywhere and is out of control.
So, Can Seizures Cause Panic Attacks Or Do Panic Attacks Lead To Seizures?
Many people suffering from anxiety and panic attacks fear that it may lead to seizure. And patients who are already suffering from a seizure disorder fear that the anxiety or the panic attacks will make their seizures worse. While there are many patients who worry that their epilepsy can also cause panic attacks.
In this article, we aim to find out the truth behind it.
About Anxiety & Panic Attacks
People suffering from anxiety disorder always have a tendency to think the worst of everything. People suffering from anxiety and panic attacks focus more on the negative.(2) Anxiety disorder is a condition where the patient’s brain tends to concentrate on the worst case scenarios.(3) So, this means that if the patient is suffering from a panic attack, then that patient is more prone to thinking that the panic attack is caused by something worse, such as seizure.
Do Anxiety & Panic Attacks Cause Seizures?
So now we will come down to the truth of the matter. Does anxiety cause seizures? If the patient is suffering from epilepsy, then the answer is YES, anxiety can cause seizures.(4) One of the most common triggers for seizure is acute stress and patients suffering from severe anxiety are also disciples of extreme stress.
However, the important point here to be noted is that panic attacks can cause seizures in a patient who already has epilepsy. It is extremely rare that a person who suffers from anxiety and stress will have their very first bout of seizure as a result of panic attacks and anxiety. Patients who have been diagnosed with epilepsy are often aware of the trigger factors and risks for the seizure.
So, it can be safely said that anxiety can cause seizures only in people who are already suffering from a seizure disorder. It is extremely rare that a person who does not have a pre-existing seizure disorder to have seizures as a result of panic attacks or anxiety.
At Which Age Do Seizures Commonly Develop?
People suffering from epilepsy commonly have their first seizure when they are very young; often in infancy or as they reach retirement age; or from a head injury.
The development of epilepsy between the ages of adolescence and adulthood is extremely rare.
At Which Age Do The Panic Attacks Commonly Occur?
The age groups of people suffering from panic attacks vary. Majority of the people suffer from their first panic attacks when they are in early 20s to mid 20s. Stress and pregnancy can also cause panic attacks.
The Confusion Between Panic Attacks & Partial Seizures
Panic attacks occur suddenly and can be so overwhelming that the patient feels out of control. In such cases, people tend to look for “other causes” or refuse to believe that it can be a panic attack. These days, for every little problem, people are searching online about it and thus there are innumerable websites and forums that tell you that what you are suffering from may be different from panic attacks, such as that it could be a partial seizure.
Partial seizures can resemble panic attacks(5); however, this occurs in very rare cases and even if they occur, then it is seen in patients who are already at risk for epilepsy. Similarly, sometimes panic attacks can be so severe to the extent that they look like seizures; however, this scenario is also not common.
How to Differentiate Between Panic Attacks and Partial Seizures?
Talking to your doctor helps in identifying the correct condition. Other than this, you can identify a panic attack and a partial seizure for what they are by:
- Panic attacks have a tendency to last longer; whereas seizures don’t.
- People suffering from seizures also have repetitive motion or actions.
- People suffering from seizures can be non-responsive; whereas, a person suffering from panic attack can respond to others.
The crux of the matter is panic attacks and seizures are both different medical conditions, their similarities notwithstanding. Also the types of seizures that resemble a panic attack are partial seizures. The full blown epileptic seizures are nothing like panic attacks.
Please do not delude yourself into thinking that your panic attacks are seizures. Partial seizures do resemble panic attacks, but this occurs rarely and that too in a person who is already prone to a seizure disorder.
Seizures Causing Panic Attacks and Anxiety
After all that is said and done, patients suffering from seizure disorders, such as epilepsy, can suffer from panic attacks and anxiety. Unfortunately, for people suffering from epilepsy this is a common issue because:
- The seizures in epilepsy can cause intense anxiety in the patient.
- The diagnosis of epilepsy for the patient is very stressful leading to anxiety and panic attacks.(4)
- Epilepsy can temporarily change the brain chemistry where the patient suffers from more anxiety.(4)
- Patients suffering from epilepsy always live in fearful and anxious state with regards to their next seizure.
So, What Is The Treatment For A Person Suffering From Seizures As Well As Panic Attacks?
The sensible thing to do here when you are an epileptic is treating both your anxiety/panic attacks and epilepsy together.(4, 6) The right medications for epilepsy helps in stopping and controlling your seizures, however, you also need to make sure that you’re not letting anxiety over seizures control your life; especially since that stress, panic attacks and anxiety are common triggers for a seizure.
It is imperative that patients suffering from anxiety and panic attacks seek treatment, whatever the cause might be. The patient should try various from of therapies, such as exercise, mediations, journaling, positive thinking and should diligently follow other treatments recommended by the doctor to get rid of anxiety and panic attacks for forever.
Understanding the Relation between Anxiety and Seizures
People suffering from panic attacks tend to fall into the trap where they are convinced that their panic attacks is something more serious. If you have not been diagnosed with epilepsy, then you have to accept the reality that what you are suffering from is in fact panic attacks and only panic attacks from acute anxiety and stress.
Whether you are suffering from panic attacks or seizures, it is important to talk to your doctor regarding the diagnosis and the best treatment plan. People suffering from epilepsy are at increased risk for more seizures due to acute stress of impending panic attack or seizure.
So, we can conclude that patient suffering from seizures can also suffer from panic attacks due to the anxiety related to seizures; whereas panic attacks and anxiety DO NOT cause seizures. If a panic attack leads to a seizure then it is because the patient is already suffering from epilepsy or that the patient already was prone to epilepsy. However, this situation where the panic attacks cause seizures is extremely rare.
Mental health disorders, such as anxiety and panic attacks are a taboo still, sadly in these modern times. Do consult your doctor or a mental health counselor, such as a psychiatrist if you are suffering from panic attacks. The one thing which you should not do try to convince yourself that what you are having is not panic attacks, as the more you try to run away from the correct diagnosis and its acceptance, the more difficult it will be to treat.