Does this describe you?
You have felt unexplainably scared while crossing a bridge, to watch a movie in a dark theater, to make presentations in the workplace, thinking about whether you kids are crossing the roads carefully….the list of things that you worry and feel scared about could go on endlessly.
There is no denying that many of us have panicked at least once in our lives. But then why this hue and cry about panic attacks? Aren’t they the same as feeling just ‘panicky’ or ‘anxious’?
This is perhaps the beginning of the confusion: we mix up the concepts of panic with panic attacks and think they are one and the same. In reality, feeling panic or over-anxious once in a while is not the same as having panic attacks or even suffering from anxiety disorders
HowToCurePanicAttack.com is dedicated not just to clarify confusions about these important mental disorders but also to inform and educate you, with the most exhaustive spread of topics, about panic attacks, chronic anxiety disorders, the connection they have with depression, panic attack symptoms, causes, treatment choices and more.
Anxiety and Panic Attacks: What Are They?
Perhaps the first association that would strike you about panic attacks is that the term ‘panic’ is normally associated with ‘anxiety’. In fact, many doctors call panic attacks – anxiety attacks, meaning they are one and the same.
Anxiety and panic attacks are episodes during which an individual may be under the grip of intense fear and anxiety. The intensity of such fears is such that it may completely paralyze and transfix the individual rendering him or her incapacitated temporarily.
Panic attacks may appear completely unannounced and without any apparent trigger. The peak of such an episode usually reaches within 10 seconds, and the full episode may last for a few minutes.
According to official statistics, close to 60 million adult Americans have experienced panic attacks at least once in their life time. Such attacks may happen only once or may recur.
Usually the same situational trigger which resulted in the first attack may push the individual to have future attacks if the triggers are the same. But are they the same as feeling ‘panic’?
As is evident from the description of what panic attacks are, they are not the same. Though people who are prone to anxiety have greater potential for experiencing panic attacks in future, the actual episode of a panic attack is far more intense and stupefying than just feeling ‘panicky’.
Read more in:
Panic Attacks in Sleep
If you thought that panic attacks happen only during the day when you are awake, think again. The difference between a sleep panic attack and a normal panic attack is that the latter arrives with some identifiable signs and symptoms that can provide the victim or people around him or her some time to take preventive measures.
Sleep panic attacks on the other hand happen while the victim is asleep. These could be caused by nightmares, frequent fears and thoughts about death, sleep apnea, etc. Such nocturnal attacks could also be fallout of use of alcohol, drugs, depression, narcotics, etc. Many say that sleep panic attacks are caused by excessive build up of carbon dioxide in the body, that triggers heavy breathing and rapid heart beats.
Panic Attack: How Does It Feel to Have One?
Rapid palpitation, trembling of the hands and a choking sensation in the chest are a few of the feelings during a panic attack. The victim is completely engulfed by an overpowering sensation of fear and apprehension. He or she wants to escape but finds no way to do so.
Can anyone die from a panic attack? Though this is one of the most distressing mental disorders, there have been no reported deaths from such episodes.
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Anxiety Disorder and Depression: Close Cousins
Anxiety disorders and depression have close family ties other than being two separate types of mental disorders. It is often seen that someone who is suffering from depression could also be potentially at risk or has already had panic or anxiety attacks. A pre-existing depressive mental state could even worsen the anxiety disorder condition and vice versa. Again, if one is diagnosed having anxiety disorder is likely to be suffering from depression also.
The same types of biological causes that lead to one’s vulnerability to attract these mental disorders are usually the same. You treat one condition – you are likely to get relief from the other, since at the root, the same causes exist.
Read more about this interesting connection: Depression and Anxiety Disorder: How & Why They Are Linked
Panic Attack: Symptoms
Though panic attacks can overwhelm an individual without any prior notice or without any apparent trigger, there are a few tell-tale signs and symptoms that can provide necessary forewarning to the victim as well his or her family of an impending attack. Here are some first-line cues that tell a story of things to come in future:
- Sleeping problems, depression, tension, aching muscles and chronic fatigue are very initial symptoms which left ignored, can result in chronic anxiety disorder and subsequent panic attacks.
- Persistent fear of being haunted by death, calamities and disaster.
- Frequent flashbacks or repeated nightmares of a past trauma.
- Rapid heart beats.
- Trembling hands
Of course there are several other symptoms of an impending panic attack but the above are most common.
Read more about panic attack symptoms in:
- Chronic Anxiety Disorder: Understand the Symptoms to Treat the Condition
- Anxiety Disorder Symptoms: Learn What They Are to Choose the Right Treatment
Panic Attacks: What are the Causes?
If you are a victim of panic attacks or have someone close who often has them, one of the things that you want to know desperately is what causes panic attacks? Knowing the probable causes of such attacks could open up new opportunities for you to seek the right treatment at the right time.
Though the rationale behind such irrational fears gripping an individual all of a sudden is still a subject of intensive research, there are some causes that have been identified. They are:
- Tendency to worry excessively over typical phase in life that may also be temporary. Examples include facing the first job interviews, marriage, divorce, separation, kids’ illness, etc.
- Overt anxiety about issues like money, career, health, future security, etc.
- Chemical imbalances in the brain
- Use and withdrawal of some medications like anti-depressants, methylphenidate, or fluoroquinolone-type antibiotics and even SSRIs are known to trigger panic attack symptoms
- Traumatic or abusive childhood or the environment in which the subject was raised.
- Consumption of some foods.
You can get more information about causes of panic attacks in:
- How Your Medication Might Be Causing Your Panic Attacks
- Some Foods Can Cause Panic Attacks: Do You Know Which Ones?
Panic Attacks: Cure and Treatment
Though panic attacks could be recurrent episodes that can throw one’s personal and professional life completely out of gear, there is still a variety of treatment options available.
The best option to get started with panic attack prevention and cure is to consult you family doctor who may refer you to a psychotherapist or a psychoanalyst. There are plenty of self-help strategies including practicing yoga, learning deep breathing techniques and mind control exercises. Then there are books and MP3 audio lessons available that help you increase your focusing and concentration abilities and keep your mind at peace.
However if the severity of the condition and the intensity and frequency of panic attacks so demand, you might be advised to go for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.
CBT is a mind management therapy program that helps the victim to confront the hidden fears and phobias in order to conquer them.
For help regarding panic attacks, you could also enroll in any of the anxiety control centers and become a member of anxiety support groups who can help you manage the condition better.
To know whether you are potentially at risk for getting panic attacks in the future, you could also take any of the online panic attack tests, the results of which can guide you to the right kind of treatment for the condition.
For more reading on the subject:
- Seeking Relief from Panic Attacks? These Foods Can Help!
- How to Recover from a Panic Attack: Seek Outside Help, or Go It Alone?
- Panic Treatments – Know Your Options for Treating Panic Attacks
- Anxiety Treatment Center: How Do I Find One?
- Anxiety Support Groups: How to Find the Right One for You
- Anxiety Attack Treatment: 7 Popular Treatments