In many cases, panic attacks strike out of nowhere, without any warning. Often the reason for the attack is not clear. They can even appear when you are relaxed or asleep.
A panic attack can be a one-off, but many people experience more than one. Recurring panic attacks are often triggered by a specific situation, such as flying on an airplane or speaking in public—especially if that situation has previously triggered a panic attack. Panic is usually triggered by a situation where you feel threatened and cannot escape.
You may experience one or more panic attacks and still be perfectly happy and relaxed otherwise. Or, your panic attacks may occur as parts of another disorder, such as panic disorder, agoraphobia, or the blues. Regardless of the cause, panic attacks are treatable. There are many effective treatments and coping strategies you can use to manage your symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of a panic attack
Panic attacks often strike when you’re away from home, but they can happen anywhere, anytime. You can have it when you are in a public place, running down the street, driving in a car, or sitting in a chair at home.
The signs and symptoms of a panic attack develop suddenly and usually peak within 10 minutes. Most panic attacks end within 20 to 30 minutes and rarely last more than an hour.
A full panic attack includes a combination of the following signs and symptoms:
* Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
* Palpitations or palpitations
* Chest pain or (restlessness ~ discomfort}
* Shaking or trembling
* Sensation of suffocation
* A feeling of unreality or detachment from your surroundings
* Nausea or stomach churning
* Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
* Numbness or tingling sensation
* Flushes of heat or cold
* Fear of death, loss of control, or going insane
Signs and symptoms of panic disorder
Many people experience panic attacks without further episodes or complications. If you’ve only had one or two panic attacks, there’s no need to worry. However, some people who have experienced panic attacks go on to develop panic disorder. Panic disorder is characterized by repeated panic attacks combined with major changes in behavior or persistent anxiety about further attacks.
You may suffer from the panic disorder if:
* Experiences (more than once~frequent}, unexpected panic attacks that are not tied to a specific situation.
* Worry a lot about having another panic attack.
* They react differently to panic attacks, such as avoiding places where they previously panicked.
While a single panic attack may only last a few moments, the effects of the experience can leave a lasting impression. If you have a panic disorder, recurring panic attacks wear on your nerves. Remembering the intense fear and terror you feel during the attacks can negatively affect your self-esteem and cause serious disruption to your daily life. Ultimately, this leads to the following symptoms of panic disorder:
* Anticipatory Anxiety – Instead of feeling relaxed and like yourself between panic attacks, you feel anxious and tense. This anxiety stems from the fear of future panic attacks. This “fear of fear” is present most of the time and can be extremely disabling.
* Phobic Avoidance – You begin to avoid certain social situations or circumstances. This fear may be based on the belief that the situation you are avoiding caused a previous panic attack. Or you can avoid places where escape would be difficult or where help would be unavailable if you had a panic attack. Taken to an extreme, phobic avoidance becomes agoraphobia.
Panic disorder with agoraphobia
Agoraphobia was originally thought to involve a fear of public places and open spaces. However, it is now believed that agoraphobia develops as a complication of panic attacks. With agoraphobia, you fear having a panic attack in a situation where escape would be difficult or embarrassing. You may also fear having a panic attack where you wouldn’t be able to get help.
Because of these fears, you stay away from more and more situations. For example, you might start avoiding crowded places like shopping malls or sports arenas. You can also avoid buses, ferries, subways and other forms of travel. In more serious cases, you can only feel safe at home.
Situations or activities to avoid if you have agoraphobia:
* Being away from home
* Going anywhere without the company of a “safe” person
* Physical activity (because of the belief that it could trigger a panic attack)
* Going to }places~places} where escape is not easily accessible (eg public places, theaters, shops, public transport)
* driving in a car
* Places where it would be embarrassing to have a panic attack, such as the public
* Eating or drinking anything that might trigger a panic (such as alcohol, caffeine, or certain foods or medications)
Although agoraphobia can develop at any time, it usually appears within a year of your first recurring panic attacks.
Causes of panic attacks and panic disorder
Although the exact causes of panic attacks and panic disorder are not clear, the tendency to panic attacks runs in families. It also appears to be associated with major life changes such as graduating from college and entering the workplace, getting married, and having a baby. Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or being fired from a job, can also trigger a panic attack.
Panic attacks can also be caused by medical conditions and other physical causes. If you are experiencing panic symptoms, it is important to see a doctor rule out the following:
* Mitral valve prolapse, is a minor heart problem that occurs when one of the heart’s valves does not close properly.
* Use of stimulants (amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine)
* Withdrawal of medication