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Panic Attacks - Signs, Symptoms and Treatments

Panic attacks are experiences of severe anxiety that may occur in an individual at any given time. Understanding the signs, symptoms and treatments of panic attacks allow you to get the situation under control. Here you’ll learn all about panic attack, and find the suitable approach to be in control.

Panic attacks are sudden-onset episodes of acute anxiety coupled with a number of discomforting symptoms in situations where there is no real danger present.

A panic attack can last a few minutes and has a peak of within 10 minutes. The physical and emotional effects of an attack may last longer still. Panic attacks are common with up to 35 percent of the population experiencing a panic attack at some time in their lives.

Panic attacks are affecting people right across the socio-economic spectrum and across all age groups. Most cases occur between late teens and mid thirties, children are reported of also being able to develop these symptoms and so can people in their forties right through to their eighties. Studies have also shown that women are twice as likely to be experience more series of panic attack as compared to men.

A panic attack is defined as the quick onset of extreme feelings of fear or anxiety. During a panic attack, a person may feel like they’ve lost control of their body, thoughts and emotions. They will be reported feeling discomforted, nauseous and having difficulties in breathing. Most panic attacks may typically occur after excessive caffeine or alcohol use, or when fatigued, or otherwise stressed.

A person who experiences recurring panic attacks is said to have panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder. They generally have recurring and unexpected panic attacks, persistent fear of repeated attacks and felt apprehension. Panic disorder may be spontaneous, or a reaction to certain situations and are most of the time seemingly abrupt and unpredictable.

A person undergoing depression may also be more inclined to experiencing one or more panic attacks due to their vulnerability and weak state of mind. If the panic attacks are not dealt with in a matter appropriate to their condition, the person may take it as a sign that they’re going crazy and would become increasingly paranoid. This will in turn create more unnecessary anxiety, resulting in recurring panic attacks in the future.

Panic disorder may subsequently occur with agoraphobia. The essential agoraphobic felt symptoms are the anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult or in which help may not be available in the event of having a panic attack. Agoraphobic fears are tricky and hard to deal with as they involve situations that include the patient being home alone, or in a crowd or even being outdoors.

Panic attacks are under-recognized, under-treated and disabling. Effective treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and antidepressants. Only cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to have a lasting effect after short-term treatment has finished, and should be offered as first-line therapy.

Without treatment, frequent and prolonged panic attacks can be debilitating. The disorienting experience during a panic attack will eventually affect other aspects in a person’s life. The person would be compelled to avoid leaving his or her own home or even being alone for fear of experiencing an attack without the presence of a companion. The person would also be avoiding means of transportation to avoid going through marked distress or anxiety. All these consequences would effectively put a stint to their lifestyle and healthy-being.

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It is helpful to also think panic attacks as manageable and treatable once the person has undergone the appropriate method of treatment. Recognizing the symptoms and signs leading to a panic attack as early as possible will help prevent a lifetime of experiencing both anxiety and depression.

Symptoms of Panic Attacks

Symptoms of panic attacks are presented in a series of disorienting effects and are often abrupt and unexpected.

Panic attacks are experienced as an emotional state with varying physical symptoms. They can occur after a long or short term of being stressed and overly anxious over an issue. Panic attacks can be triggered by events of great significance of impact such like divorce, death of a loved one, being fired or even in certain social situations or with particular people.

The body responds to stress by going up a notch or two, and continual stress can cause the psychological levels being unable to return to neutral level. Remaining constant in the high level of stress will undoubtedly increase the chances of the brain triggering its alarm mechanism to produce a panic attack.

The symptoms of panic attacks can last between 5 and 35 minutes and leave the person feeling shaky for up to 6 hours or even longer in terms of period of recovery afterwards. Studies show up to 12% of people have had an unexpected panic attack at some time in their lives.

panic attacks

The following are some symptoms of panic attacks:

  • Palpitations, rapid heart rate 
  • Profuse sweating 
  • Trembling and shaking 
  • Shortness of breath, difficulties in breathing 
  • Chest pain or discomfort 
  • Abdominal distress 
  • Dizziness and light-headedness 
  • Derealization, detached from oneself 
  • Fears of losing control of oneself 
  • Fear of dying, being attacked 
  • Numbness or tingling sensation 
  • Loss of bladder control 
  • Alternating Chills and hot flushes 

Flight-or-fight

When faced with imminent danger or threat, the brain activates the “flight-or-fight” response. The body will start pumping itself with chemicals like adrenaline that will trigger the physiological changes. For instance, the heart rate and breathing will be escalated and blood will start flowing to the muscles to prepare for physical combat or to start running away.

It is an automatic defense response one will have no control over. If the person can’t escape or fend off the danger, another automatic defensive response that gives one a chance for survival – freeze – will be activated.

Panic attacks are said to occur when the “flight-or-fight” response is set off when there is baseless danger. A person may experience these symptoms of a panic attack in harmless and apparent stress-free circumstances, such as watching television or even deep in slumber. The most worrying fact about a panic attack is its state of instability and unpredictability.

Patients with panic disorder may present to doctors’ surgeries or emergency departments. They may feel that they are having a ‘heart-attack’ or are about to die, shortness of breath and difficulties in breathing; these are usually in the absence of any signs of respiratory disorder.

It is also important to recognize some warning signs leading to a possible panic attack so action can be taken to cushion the effects and discomfort. Most experience of an unforeseen panic attack is not triggered by situations and places. It occurs spontaneously and irrespective of what the person may be doing at the time.

Symptoms of panic attacks felt can be completely overwhelming in both physically and psychological sense with many cases of people reported feeling as if they are having a heart attack, or dying or going insane.

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