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We all have heard people saying that they had panic attacks. But what are panic attacks? How do they occur? In 2019, World Health Organization said, 301 million people lived with an anxiety disorder, including 58 million children and adolescents. A panic attack might be frightening but not life-threatening. When panic attacks occur, we might think we are dying or losing control. However, panic attacks can be managed if proper treatment is given.
Generally, panic attacks require professional care and management. Additionally, to determine whether a person is experiencing a panic attack or not, we need to be aware of the symptoms of panic attacks.
What Does ‘Panic Attack’ Mean?
- A panic attack is characterized by sharp, powerful, uncontrollable sensations of worry, fear, dread, and intense physical reactions. It might happen for a short or for a long time. It is a severe issue that impacts people’s physical and emotional health.
- But if you have repeated and unexpected panic attacks and spend time in constant worry and fear, this leads to panic disorder.
- People with panic attacks change their behavior to avoid situations that lead to other episodes of panic attacks.
- The statistic depicts the percentage of population worldwide who had anxiety disorders from 1990 to 2019. According to the data, 3.94 percent of the population suffered from an anxiety disorder as of 2019.
Now that we know what a panic attack is, let’s discuss the different types and how they occur.
Types of Panic Attack
Panic attacks can differ depending on what triggered them, their duration, and their intensity. Here is what you need to know about each one.
So, there are two types of Panic Attacks:
1. Expected Panic Attacks
- Attacks are expected to occur when a person is exposed to specific cues or panic triggers.
- For instance, a person with claustrophobia—a dread of small, enclosed spaces, might feel like having panic attacks in an elevator or other confined spaces.
2. Unexpected Panic Attacks
- Unexpected panic attacks strike without warning or apparent cause. A person may be at ease before experiencing unplanned panic attack symptoms.
- No internal cognitive indicators, such as anxious thoughts, emotions of great dread and worry, or unpleasant bodily sensations, indicate this sort of panic attack is occurring.
Mechanism Of Panic Attack
When our body encounters a terrifying situation, a panic attack happens. When the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in processing fear, detects something fearful, it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. It regulates the production of adrenaline in the body. Adrenaline causes a rise in heart rate, breathing rate, and oxygen delivery to the muscles, lungs, arms, and brain, which increases alertness and leads to other symptoms of Panic Attacks.
How Do We Recognize a Panic Attack?
Panic attacks occur abruptly without any alarm. Typically, panic attack symptoms start suddenly and peak in a few minutes. After a panic attack has passed, the symptoms may entirely go away, or the person may continue to feel nervous, possibly going through the panic cycle once again.
Individuals who encounter panic attacks experience a variety of physical and emotional symptoms mentioned below:-
- Raising of heartbeat
- Problem in breathing
- Chest pain
- Being detached from oneself (depersonalization) and reality (derealization)
- A sudden feeling of intense coldness and warmth
- Fear of dying
- Feeling of numbness
- Fear of losing control of oneself
Factors Responsible For Panic Attacks
Here are a few factors which are responsible for panic attacks. Although the exact cause of the panic attack is not known yet. Following are some of the various factors responsible for the panic attack:
It is thought that anxiety disorders like panic attacks run in families. There is a potential that an anxiety condition may be passed down to future generations if someone in the family had one.
2. Stressful Event
It is stated that there is a probability of developing a Panic attack if a person has undergone trauma or is under any form of stress.
3. Imbalance In Neurotransmitters
An imbalance in neurotransmitters can cause panic attacks. However, any imbalance in neurotransmitters serotonin, GABA(gamma amino butyric acid), and norepinephrine/epinephrine are responsible for the occurrence of panic attacks.
How Panic Attacks Can Be Managed And Treated?
Although there is no cure available for panic disorder, there are several methods for managing symptoms. The most typical options involve taking:
During panic attacks, most sufferers with panic disorder can attempt these measures and engage in self-care activities. These medications and psychotherapy can reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks.
Psychotherapy which is also known as ‘talk therapy,’ in which a client expresses their problem to the therapist. It not only helps you understand your panic attack but also your coping skills. Cognitive behavior therapy is a form of psychotherapy used to treat Panic Attacks.
Now, let’s learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy and how it is beneficial:
CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)
It is one of the effective psychotherapy which is used to treat panic attacks. It helps to understand their panic attack triggers and then make them learn how they can appropriately deal with them. It’s an exposure therapy in which an individual faces the situation that triggers their attack and makes them anxious. Furthermore, also build their confidence to manage the situation without making them uneasy.
It helps to reduce and manage the symptoms of a panic attack. It gives relief to individuals, no doubt, but in addition, it can create dependencies.
(Note: Before taking medication, consult your doctor first, and ask about the medicine’s benefits, risks, and side effects too.)
Strategies To Avoid a Panic Attack
When one experiences a panic attack, there is a probability that the person will experience subsequent episodes of panic attacks in the future. To lower the likelihood of experiencing additional attacks, one should adopt certain habits or adjust some aspects of their lifestyle.
There are a few strategies that individuals can use to prevent panic attacks :
- Follow Healthy Diet
Diet plays a vital role in managing stress, mood, and mental health. A balanced healthy diet is essential to control various mental illnesses, including panic attacks. As a result, maintaining a healthy diet reduces mood fluctuation, keeps you happy, and increases your concentration power.
- Do Exercise
Regular physical exercise helps improve your mood, enhance self-esteem, and increase your energy level. It’s the best way to relieve the physical and mental tension, in turn reducing the feeling of fear and worry.
- Practice Deep Breathing
Rapid and fast breathing is a common symptom of panic attacks. Deep breathing reduces heart rate and blood pressure, decreases the level of the stress hormone, balances the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, and promotes the feeling of control and wellbeing.
Focus on your breath, inhale deeply, hold it for a while and then exhale from the mouth.
- Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, And Smoking
Especially one should avoid taking this as it can make panic attacks worse by increasing anxiety and depression and affecting the coping skills of individuals.
How To Deal With a Panic Disorders/Attack?
While terrifying, intense, and frightening, panic episodes are not very dangerous. When one experiences a panic attack, the dread of experiencing another episode also begins to emerge in people, which is why one starts engaging in activities to prevent having another panic attack. Because panic attacks usually happen unexpectedly and last for only a short while,
So, here are some strategies that one might use to remain calm and deal with the situation:
- Deep Breathing
- With closed eyes, focus on breathing
- Grounding exercise
1. Deep Breathing
Moreover, during panic attacks, one finds difficulty in breathing. Importantly, at that time, one should do deep breathing to relax.
- breathe in slowly, deeply through your nose.
- Breathe out slowly, deeply through the nose.
2. Recognizing Panic Attack
Recognizing that you are having a panic attack can help you to understand that it is temporary and will soon pass. Hence, knowing that it is a panic attack one can work on reducing and managing the symptoms of panic attacks.
3. Grounding Exercise
Grounding exercise is the best technique to calm anxiety during a panic attack. It helps individuals to be aware of where they are, so they feel relaxed and in control of the situation. Also, it helps to bring your focus from the outside world to oneself.
The most common grounding exercise is the 54321 exercise. In this, you have to identify:-
- Five things you can see
- Four things you can touch
- Three things you can hear
- Two things you can smell
- One thing you can hear
In conclusion, having a panic attack can be very restless e and scary. Although panic attacks are not physically damaging, they can negatively impact your mental health. However, it discomforts you from engaging in the activities you enjoy. It’s ok to tell your healthcare practitioner that you experience panic attacks and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Therefore, you can even take an overview of our plans. We are happy to help you.
FAQs- Frequently Asked Questions
What are an anxiety attack and a panic attack?
Panic Attack: The constant feeling of fear, worry, and dread occurs with or without any reason. Symptoms of Panic Attacks appear suddenly and end very early.
Similarly, when it comes to anxiety, attacks occur with a perceived stressor, and its symptoms appear gradually and tend to occur for longer.
What problems can arise from panic attacks?
Panic attacks are often curable. Unfortunately, embarrassment prevents many people from getting assistance. Generally, panic disorders and untreated panic episodes can make it difficult for one to enjoy life. However, one may develop:-
- Anticipatory anxiety
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This blog is for information purposes only. If you find any of the above symptoms, please contact mental health professionals, or even you can book a consultation with us.