Panic Attack Symptoms And Tips For Dealing With Them
Experiencing overwhelming fear? Having a feeling that no one would understand how real the danger is to you and embarrassed to talk about it? This content is for you. Let’s look into what a panic attack is, its symptoms and tips to deal with it.
What Is A Panic Attack?
A panic attack is a sudden intense feeling of fear that triggers unpleasant physical sensations when there is no actual danger or cause is present. Panic attack symptoms usually reach their peak within ten minutes and mostly end within twenty to thirty minutes. It rarely lasts more than an hour, but the emotional impact may last for a few hours.
A panic attack may be severely upsetting and uncomfortable, but they are not dangerous. Treatment options can also be very effective. Although panic attacks can happen to anyone, women are twice as likely to get panic attacks compared to men.
Panic attacks typically occur in the late teens or early adult years. Children can also have panic attacks. A panic attack happens without warning and can happen anywhere. It can happen while watching television, while asleep, walking, during a meeting, etc.
Panic Attack Symptoms:
If a person experiences four or more of these symptoms, he/she might have a panic attack. When the symptoms are severe, it may resemble a heart attack.
- Sudden chills or hot flashes
- Difficulty breathing or tightness in your throat
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Fear of loss of control
- Fear of death
- Sweating, shaking, trembling
- Pounding heartbeat
- Tingling in toes or fingers
- Abdominal discomfort
- Chest pain, choking feeling
- Feeling detached and unreal
- Tensed muscles
- Dry mouth
For many people, panic attacks are a one-time occurrence. When panic attacks occur repeatedly, it is called panic disorder. People having panic disorder are constantly worried that they will have another attack. They behave abnormally and avoid the situations and places they previously had a panic attack. The American psychological association says about one out of every seventy-five people might experience panic disorder.
The exact reason why a panic attack occurs is not clear. But certain things may increase the risk of having it. Family history of panic disorders or mental health disorders, personal history of mental illness, major stress, major life transition such as graduation, having a first baby, death of a spouse, drug abuse, history of sexual or physical abuse and chronic alcoholism can increase the risk of panic attacks.
The panic attack symptoms can also be caused by medical and physical conditions. Examples of such conditions are mitral valve prolapse (minor cardiac problem), low blood sugar levels, withdrawal of medicines, usage of stimulants such as cocaine, caffeine, amphetamines, and thyroid problems.
As previously said, panic attacks and panic disorders are highly treatable. Various therapies are available, and people can lead normal lives once treated. Untreated panic attacks can cause complications.
People who have panic attacks can often experience phobia (extreme, unrealistic fear of specific things such as objects, activities, or animals). Some people may feel that going outside may put them at risk of having another attack, so they prefer to stay inside and neglect all situations they believe will cause panic attacks. It is called agoraphobia. Two out of three people develop this problem.
People who suffer from panic attacks may spend less time on leisure activities, are more prone to drug and alcohol abuse, feel emotionally less healthy, and have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts.
Tips For Dealing With A Panic Attack:
1. The first essential step is to learn about a panic attack. Once you understand the sensations and signs you are experiencing are normal, your abnormal fear will be greatly reduced, and it can help in handling the attacks.
2. Deep breathing helps manage symptoms of a panic attack such as dizziness, tightness of the chest, etc. Sit and take a deep breath, hold your breath for a while and then exhale. Pay attention to rhythms of breathing and visualize that you are taking something positive with each breath. Controlling your breathing helps to calm yourself. Few people find it helpful to count the breaths.
3. Avoid self-talk, such as forcing yourself to relax and avoid giving attention to symptoms. Tell yourself that panic attacks are not dangerous and nothing bad will happen to you.
4. Try to pick an object and focus on every detail of the object, such as shape, size, texture, its movement, and describe the details to yourself. This will help you to distract your mind from panic attack symptoms. You can also try recalling the words of your favorite song.
5. Guided imagery is a simple relaxation technique. It can quickly calm your body and mind. In this technique, you can use audio recordings, or inner voice and imagination. One of the familiar methods is using your own thoughts.
For this, try to get into a relaxed position, and follow deep breathing. Visualize the most relaxing and beautiful picture you think of. It may be deep in the woods, sitting near a waterfall, playing on the beach or sitting by a fire in a snow cabin. Place yourself there and enjoy the surroundings.
6. Enough sleep, regular exercise, a healthy diet, building supportive relationships and managing stress in daily life can lower the occurrence of a panic attack.
7. When your family member or friend has a panic attack, the first thing you need to understand is the danger seems very real to the panicked person even though there is no existing danger. Try to be non-judgmental and encourage them not to feel embarrassed in seeking help.
The Bottom Note:
If you experience panic attack symptoms, visit a physician as soon as possible. The symptoms should be evaluated professionally as they can resemble severe problems like a heart attack. Most people improve significantly with professional care.