According to Psychology panic attacks are feelings of sudden and intense anxiety. It can feel like you are losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying. Panic attacks can be very frightening. They usually last a few minutes, but some people have symptoms that last much longer. Panic attacks are more common than you might think. In the United States, about 6 million adults have panic disorder every year. That means about 2-3% of adults will have panic disorder at some point. Women are twice as likely as men to develop panic disorder. People of all ages can have panic disorder, but it is most common in young and middle-aged adults. Panic attacks can run in families, so if you have a family member with panic disorder, you may be at increased risk for developing it yourself.
What a panic attack is and how it differs from an anxiety
A panic attack is a sudden rush of intense physical and psychological symptoms characterized by feelings of intense fear and dread. It differs from general anxiety in that it can be experienced as a sudden and extreme wave of physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, profuse sweating, trembling, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, and palpitations. During a panic attack, seekers may experience feelings of unreality or depersonalization. Panic attacks have been compared to an “out-of-body” experience. Panic attacks typically last several minutes to a few hours but may persist for days. Often people find them very terrifying because they cannot anticipate or control when they may occur.
The causes of panic attacks and who is most susceptible to them
Panic attacks are a pervasive medical condition for many individuals, particularly those in young adulthood. Generally caused by stress, panic attacks are characterized by symptoms such as shortness of breath, trembling, and extreme anxiety. People with panic disorder or hypochondria are most likely to experience panic attacks, as incorrect interpretations of physical sensations can trigger them. Such reactions can lead to an increased sensitivity to stressors, meaning any minor ailment could trigger a full-blown panic attack. Moreover, those with preexisting mental health conditions such as PTSD can also become susceptible to these episodes. While the causes may vary between individuals, it is clear that panic attacks can cause immense distress and impairment in daily functioning when not appropriately addressed.
Symptoms of a panic attack and how they can be debilitating
A panic attack is a powerful and overwhelming experience that can be extremely frightening and debilitating. Symptoms typically include intense fear, an accelerated heart rate, sweaty palms, trembling or shaking, difficulty breathing, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, hot flashes or sudden chills, numbness, or tingling sensations. It is also common to experience feelings of depersonalization or detachment from one’s body and extreme fear of losing control. These symptoms can unexpectedly come on quickly and last for several minutes before dissipating in most cases. Those who have experienced a panic attack many times describe it as one of the most distressing feelings imaginable and may feel completely overwhelmed by the physical and psychological effects.
Tips for coping with panic attacks and managing anxiety in general
Uncontrollable bouts of intense fear and panic, characterized by shortness of breath, a racing heart, feelings of dread, disorientation, and sweating, are all symptoms of a panic attack. Coping with such attacks can be daunting; however, with proper self-management techniques and good support networks, people with panic disorders can regain control of their lives. Practising mindfulness has been shown to reduce the severity and frequency of panic attacks by focusing on conscious awareness in the present moment. Reducing caffeine consumption may also help manage anxiety levels, as overly high doses sometimes exacerbate symptoms. Lastly, developing healthy coping mechanisms such as journaling or exercise is recommended to improve mental well-being overall, providing an outlet for anxiety when it arises. With all of these strategies combined, calming down from a panic attack and managing your daily stressors effectively is within reach.
resources for further reading on panic attacks
If you are interested in learning more about panic attacks, many excellent resources are available. Steven J. Langer’s book Managing Panic Attack evaluates the different strategies for treating these episodes, both from the perspective of psychological treatment and pharmacological treatment. In addition, Bruce Masek’s Panic Anxiety and Its Disorders: A Guide to Practical Management is an informative overview of anxiety disorders that incorporates recent advances in neuroscience and cognitive-behavioural sciences. The American Psychological Association (APA) also offers several helpful articles on their website that provide up-to-date information on the diagnosis and management of the panic disorder. Reading these resources can help increase your understanding of panic attacks, empowering you to manage them better if they arise.
Panic attacks can be an incredibly traumatic experience, leaving those who suffer from them feeling scared and helpless. With a greater understanding of the causes, symptoms and management techniques for these episodes, people can start to find helpful ways to cope with panic attacks and their associated anxiety. Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, various options are available to assist those in need. Resorting to relaxation techniques, seeking out support networks, and trying different medications may all be effective methods to manage anxiety levels. By acknowledging that panic attacks are a genuine issue that many people face every day and putting in the effort to learn more about them, we can bring much-needed awareness and understanding to this often misunderstood condition.
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