What Is Panic Disorder
If you’re having lots of panic attacks at unpredictable times and there doesn’t seem to be a particular trigger or cause, you might be given a diagnosis of panic disorder. It’s common to experience panic disorder and certain types of phobia together. People who experience panic disorder may have some periods with few or no panic attacks, but have lots at other times.
Panic disorder and high sensitivity
Some research suggests that people who have panic disorder might be very sensitive to sensory experiences , but there’s not enough evidence yet to say for sure.
Also it’s not clear whether having a high level of sensitivity to these sorts of things is something that might cause you to develop panic disorder, or whether it may be an effect of having it.
“Never knowing when I was going to have a panic attack was the worst feeling in the world.”
What Can Cause Panic Attacks
If you have panic attacks its likely to have started with one particular situation one day which made you feel panicky, anxious or frightened. You could have been giving an important work presentation, trapped on a crowded bus or stuck in a lift, for example.
Its not surprising that you may have started to avoid similar situations for fear that they might trigger another attack. And this has helped to increase your sense of fear, helping to keep panic attacks happening. Our case study shows how panic attacks can develop in this way.
Suzanne Smith is a single mum of a 14-year-old girl, Jess. Last year Suzanne and Jess were at Leeds Bradford Airport getting ready to board a plane to Spain when Jess collapsed and was taken very ill. Suzanne started to feel very frightened as she waited for emergency help to arrive. Her heart started to race, her breathing got very fast and she felt very dizzy, nauseous and light-headed. A crowd formed around Jess who was lying on the floor in her mothers arms. Many faces were looking at them as Suzanne got more and more anxious. When help arrived, Jess was transported on a stretcher through the crowded airport.
Suzanne and Jess want to go on holiday this year, but Suzanne is too scared to go back to Leeds Bradford Airport. She is frightened about having a panic attack in front of lots of people and is worried that, if she does, she wouldnt be able to take care of her daughter if she was takenill again.
Panic Attack Signs And Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a panic attack develop abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. They rarely last more than an hour, with most ending within 20 to 30 minutes. Panic attacks can happen anywhere and at any time. You may have one while youre in a store shopping, walking down the street, driving in your car, or even sitting on the couch at home.
Panic attack symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Heart palpitations or racing heart
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy
Is it a heart attack or a panic attack?
Most of the symptoms of a panic attack are physical, and many times these symptoms are so severe that you may think youre having a heart attack. In fact, many people suffering from panic attacks make repeated trips to the doctor or the emergency room in an attempt to get treatment for what they believe is a life-threatening medical problem. While its important to rule out possible medical causes of symptoms such as chest pain, elevated heart rate, or difficulty breathing, its often panic that is overlooked as a potential causenot the other way around.
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Causes Of Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Although the exact causes of panic attacks and panic disorder are unclear, the tendency to have panic attacks runs in families. There also appears to be a connection with major life transitions such as graduating from college and entering the workplace, getting married, or having a baby. Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss can also trigger panic attacks.
Panic attacks can also be caused by medical conditions and other physical causes. If youre suffering from symptoms of panic, its important to see a doctor to rule out the following possibilities:
Alcohol Can Lead To Withdrawal Symptoms
Severe hangovers and withdrawal symptoms if you drink regularly can put both your mind and your body through stress. Withdrawal symptoms during a severe hangover can include:
- Feeling sick.
The fact that all these physiological changes can cause symptoms so similar to those of a panic attack can trick your brain into having a real one.
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Why Do I Get Panic Attacks For No Reason
Have you recently felt that you have had a panic attack for no reason? Do you get panic attacks and cant understand why they happen?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders groups panic attacks into two categories – expected or unexpected. If you feel as though you have had a panic attack for no reason, it is likely that you have experienced one that would be considered unexpected.
A Further Discussion On Heart Rate Variable
We have more extensive information on heart rate variability or HRV. Below we will summarize two of our articles. The first is from our article Heart Rate Variability.
The clinical importance of HRV cannot be overestimated. A low HRV has been confirmed in numerous studies to be a strong, independent predictor of future health problems and as a correlate of all-cause mortality. Reduced HRV has been shown to occur in almost every illness. Low HRV is a predictor of both physical and emotional diseases. It also is an indicator of psychological resiliency and behavioral flexibility, reflecting an individuals capacity to adapt effectively to changing social and environmental demands and stressors.
Many Caring Medical patients, especially those with systemic illnesses and/or cervical instability find monitoring and improving their HRV important to regaining their health.
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How Do I Know If Im A Good Candidate
We hope you found this article informative and it helped answer many of the questions you may have surrounding the challenges that you may be facing. Just like you, we want to make sure you are a good fit for our clinic prior to accepting your case. While our mission is to help as many people with chronic pain as we can, sadly, we cannot accept all cases. We have a multi-step process so our team can really get to know you and your case to ensure that it sounds like you are a good fit for the unique testing and treatments that we offer here.
Believing You Have No Control Over Your Feelings
One of the objectives of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is giving you more power over your thoughts. And because your thoughts are directly linked to your body and your feelings, when you heal your mind your physical symptoms will decrease.
It may seem like panic happens to you, but in reality it doesnt. Once you understand this, you will have more control.
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Always Seek Professional Advice
Always seek medical advice if you are not sure whether your symptoms, or another persons symptoms, indicate a panic attack. In an emergency, dial triple zero for an ambulance. Its important to see your doctor for a check-up to make sure that any recurring physical panic-like symptoms are not due to illnesses, including:
What Are Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
A panic attack is a sudden, intense fear or anxiety that may make you short of breath or dizzy or make your heart pound. You may feel out of control. Some people believe that they are having a heart attack or are about to die. An attack usually lasts from 5 to 20 minutes. But it may last even longer. You have the most anxiety about 10 minutes after the attack starts. If these attacks happen often, they are called a panic disorder.
Panic attacks can be scary and so bad that they get in the way of your daily activities. Treatment can help most people have fewer symptoms or even stop the attacks.
More women than men get panic attacks.
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Are Panic And Anxiety Attacks Same
People usually think that both of these terms are interchangeable, but thats not the case.
An anxiety attack takes place when there is something particular triggering the person. The majority of the times anxiety takes place due to some event or situation. Though, this is not the case always.
Whereas on the other hand, a panic attack can happen without any particular reason or situation going on currently. Plus the symptoms and effects of a panic attack are much more severe than an anxiety attack. Anxiety can be a part of panic disorder. Hence, a person suffering from panic disorder may experience sudden and short anxiety episodes randomly without any reason. In short, anxiety is a part of panic disorder, but panic attacks not necessarily be a part of anxiety or anxiety attacks.
Constant anxiety and stress can be a problem in the future.
What Are The Complications Of Panic Disorder
As the panic gets worse and an attacks last longer, you may find it very tough to cope with everyday life, keep a job, or function in social settings. You may fear going into places where it may be hard to escape or you feel trapped. Some people can’t leave their home for fear that help is not available or that he or she will be forced into a situation that will trigger an attack.
People with this condition may also abuse alcohol or drugs to relieve stress.
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Dealing With A Panic Attack
Although a panic attack comes on suddenly, often with no prior indication that it is going to happen, its initial symptoms intensify, and it tends to reach its peak after around 10 minutes. One can begin deploying various coping strategies to reduce the severity of a panic attack as soon as one notices the first signs.
Techniques which are useful in navigating a panic attack focus on calming the mind and body. Used effectively, they can reduce the severity of a given panic attack or prevent its initial stages developing into a full-symptom panic attack. Many helpful techniques related to managing a panic attack or preventing future episodes are derived from cognitive behavioral therapy , which focuses on making changes to a personâs usual thought processes and behavior in relation to particular concepts.
Strategies for managing an oncoming panic attack include:
Relaxing the muscles
A panic attack causes oneâs muscles to tense up, so performing muscle relaxing exercises, focused on relaxing both specific muscle groups and oneâs entire body, can help calm the body during a panic attack.
Stopping all activities
There are many CBT techniques designed to help with deconstructing anxious thoughts and restoring calm during and after a panic attack. Doctors or psychotherapists will be able to recommend techniques appropriate to each person’s mental health status and the nature of their panic attack.
How To Prevent A Panic Attack
To prevent a panic attack from happening, you need first to figure out what triggers your panic attacks. When you figure out what triggers your panic attacks, you can avoid them or eliminate them from your life.
Other tips that can help you prevent a panic attack include:
- Avoid bad habits like smoking and consuming alcohol and caffeine excessively. These habits can increase the frequency of panic attacks or worsen them when they occur.
- Exercise as often as you can. Adopting a regular exercise schedule can improve your mood, cut down stress and help you live a generally more healthy life. This, in turn, can help to lessen the frequency and severity of your panic attacks.
- Try out some stress management methods. One of the triggers of panic attacks is stress. When you are stressed, you are more likely to have a panic attack than when you are not. Stress management methods like meditation and yoga can help you cut down on your stress.
- Ensure that you are getting enough sleep. A panic attack can often feel like your body is on the fritz. These feelings will only be heightened when you are not getting enough sleep and your body isnt fully rested.
- Make breathing exercises a part of your daily routine. While breathing exercises can help you calm down during a panic attack, you dont have to wait for one to happen to benefit from them. Doing daily breathing exercises can help you prevent panic attacks.
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How Long Do Panic Attacks Last
Panic attacks are generally brief, lasting less than 10 minutes, although some of the symptoms may last longer. An isolated panic attack, while extremely unpleasant, is not uncommon or life-threatening.
Panic attacks can be a symptom of other anxiety disorders, and people whoâve had one panic attack are at greater risk for another compared to those whoâve never had one. Panic attacks and panic disorder are not the same thing. When the attacks happen repeatedly and you worry about having more episodes, you may have panic disorder.
How To Reduce Anxiety And Chest Pain
The best way to manage chest pain is with prevention and by reducing your overall anxiety symptoms. The less you experience anxiety, the less risk you’ll have for chest pain.
If you’re currently experiencing anxiety and chest pain, the best things to do are the following:
- Control Your Breathing Recall that this type of chest pain is often caused by hyperventilation, and even if you’re not hyperventilating, getting your breathing under control is a great way to calm the nerves. Take slow, controlled breaths using deep breathing techniques that take at least 15 seconds and you’ll quickly see a difference. Try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, breathing deep from your diaphragm rather than shallow from your chest.
- Control Your Thoughts One of the reasons I recommend going to a doctor first is because understanding that your chest pain is anxiety related reduces the severity of the experience. If you know that your heart is in good health, don’t let your thoughts spiral out of control because that may make the chest pain worse.
- Control Your Environment Chest pain caused by thoughts or anxiety is often made worse when you sit and focus on the experience. See if you can give yourself a healthy coping distraction, and much of the chest pain will fade away. Some suggestions for this include changing your location , listen to relaxing or happy music, talk on the phone with a trusted friend, or use grounding techniques to focus on the present.
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Tips For Helping Someone With An Anxiety Disorder:
- Make no assumptionsask the person what they need.
- Be predictabledon’t surprise the person.
- Let the person with the disorder set the pace for recovery.
- Find something positive in every small step towards recovery.
- Don’t help the person avoid their fears.
- Maintain your own life so you don’t resent the person with the disorder.
- Don’t panic when the person with the disorder panics, but realize it’s natural to be concerned with them.
- Be patient and accepting, but don’t settle for the affected person being permanently disabled.
- Say encouraging words such as: “You can do it no matter how you feel. I am proud of you. Tell me what you need now. Breathe slow and low. Stay in the present. It’s not the place that’s bothering you, it’s the thought. I know that what you are feeling is painful, but it’s not dangerous. You are courageous.”
- Avoid saying things like: “Don’t be anxious. Let’s see if you can do this. You can fight this. What should we do next? Don’t be ridculous. You have to stay. Don’t be a coward.” These phrases tend to blame the individual for the anxiety.
Caffeine And Anxiety Make You Feel Jittery And Nervous
Caffeine is a stimulant and that can be bad news for someone with anxiety. Caffeine’s jittery effects on your body are similar to those of a frightening event. That’s because caffeine stimulates your fight or flight response, and research has shown that this can make anxiety worse and can even trigger an anxiety attack.
Other research suggests that while caffeine can increase alertness, attention, and cognitive function, overdoing it can increase anxiety, particularly in people with panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. And as with the symptoms of anxiety, one too many cups of joe may leave you feeling nervous and moody, and can keep you up at night.
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Differences In How They Start
Anxiety can be a response to a specific worry or fear. It tends to develop gradually, and a person is usually worried or concerned at the outset. It can be mild, moderate or severe. There may be a sense that if only this problem can be solved, everything will be all right.
A panic attack can happen without warning, and there is no way to prevent it. It can happen whether a person feels calm or anxious, and even during sleep. There is often no obvious cause, and the level of fear is out of proportion to the trigger. In fact, according to the APA, the reaction is unrelated to the situation.