Panic Attack Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Heart beating fast, the lungs can't take in the air, and the world around disappears; these are just some of the symptoms of panic attacks that often debilitate the people who experience them. This disorder manifests in physical and mental symptoms, and it is important to identify it and receive the proper treatment. If you think you may have had panic attacks, or you notice people around you having them, this is the information you need.
What is a Panic Attack?
A panic attack is an intense and sudden feeling of discomfort or fear that happens to certain people on occasion. After panic attacks creep in, they reach a peak within minutes that manifests in at least four of the symptoms we will discuss.
While there is a common conception that panic attack occurs in stressful situations, it is not true. A panic attack can either in an anxious or a calm state without any obvious triggers. Panic attacks can be symptomatic of a panic disorder or other psychological disorders, like obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, depression, and others.
Panic Attack Symptoms
Panic attacks are defined as attacks that manifest with at least four of the following symptoms:
- Fear of death or loss of control
- A sense of impending doom
- Rapid heart rate
- Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat/chest
- Shaking or trembling
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
- Chest pain
- Hot flashes
- A feeling of detachment or unreality
- Tingling sensation/numbness
There are other psychological disorders that have many similar symptoms to that of a panic attack, which is why people often confuse them. The difference between panic attacks and other disorders is in the intensity and the duration of a panic attack. When an attack begins, it reaches a peak within 10 minutes or less. After the peak, the symptoms begin to subside, and the mind and body return to their normal state.
Panic attacks also have similar symptoms to physical disorders and not only psychological disorders. Breathing disorders, thyroid problems, heart disease, and other physical problems have similar symptoms to panic attacks, which is why people who have these attacks go the emergency room thinking they have a physical problem.
What Causes Panic Attacks?
There is no known cause for panic disorder, but there are certain factors that are known to be a part of the disorder:
- Major stress
- A sensitive temperament
- Changes in certain brain function
Many people who experience these types of attacks state that they come out of the blue, but as time goes by, certain triggers are revealed.
Aside from panic attack causes, there are also risk factors that increase the chances of developing the disorder:
- Major stress caused by a life situation, like the death of a loved one
- A family history of panic disorders and panic attacks
- Traumatic events
- Major changes in life
- Excessive coffee intake and smoking
- Childhood physical/sexual abuse
Panic Attack Treatment
People who suffer from a panic disorder can be treated with medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, or a combination of both. The most common form of medical treatment for this disorder is antidepressants that have shown to reduce the severity and frequency of panic attacks.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) includes several different schools that each of them helps to treat the mind and the body. These types of techniques include panic management, applied relaxation, breathing retraining, and more. CBT helps people to minimize the frequency of panic attacks, and also discover what triggers it. Also, CBT helps people who suffer from a panic disorder to recognize a panic attack before it happens and contain it.
Panic disorders affect the lives of millions, and they can interfere with everyday life without any warning. To manage panic attacks, it is important to know their symptoms and also consult a physician or psychologist to exclude physical problems. After the diagnosis, you can choose your panic attack coping method and improve your life.