Panic attack is a sudden episode of fear and anxiety accompanied by severe bodily reactions. It is quite scary for the person who experiences it, as he may feel like he is having a heart attack, like he is going crazy or that he is detached (cut off) from himself (e.g. that he is out of his body and observes himself as a third party) .
A panic attack occurs when the body experiences an unexpected, sudden alertness and intense psychological and physical symptoms. During a panic attack we experience intense fear, anxiety and stress.
During a panic attack, physical symptoms such as palpitations, numbness of the limbs, sweating, feelings of terror, suffocation, dizziness, or choking, muscle spasms, nausea, abdominal discomfort, instability, fainting, fear of losing control, chills, and flashes occur.
The symptoms peak within 10 minutes, and then gradually subside. The most important effect is the development of phobia, ie a constant fear that it will happen again at any time. This gradually affects daily life, functionality, activities and at the same time degrades the quality of life. Many times people with panic disorder end up locked up at home (agoraphobia, i.e. fear of something happening outside) for fear of the next panic attack.
Because of this, individuals are almost always led to avoidant or overly controlling behaviors. For example, someone who has experienced a panic attack will avoid places or situations associated with it (e.g. driving, public transport, open spaces, etc.)
What are the causes?
Panic attacks can be related to: Anxiety, stress at work, social stress, alcohol, drugs, caffeine, chronic conditions or chronic pain, problems – in personal, family or professional relationships – phobias, a traumatic event, medication or nutrition supplements, thyroid, diabetes, heart disease, divorce, separation, dismissal.
About 2-3% of adults have a panic attack each year. It usually starts in young adults (20-24 years old) but can occur earlier or later in life.
Psychotherapy and especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most effective therapeutic approach for the disorder and panic attacks. It helps understand them and learn ways to deal with them.
It takes time and effort to achieve the results of the treatment. The symptoms of a panic attack will begin to subside within a few weeks, and often reduce significantly or subside within a few months.
Medication helps reduce symptoms. There are many types of medication that are effective and you need to consult with a specialist.
With these techniques it is possible to reduce feelings of panic and anxiety. In particular, “tactical breathing” helps to concentrate and control emotions and thoughts.
Other ways include: Eating healthy, getting 8 hours of sleep at night, exercising daily, staying positive and building a support network.
The panic attack is not life threatening, it will end soon. So it is good to remind ourselves of this and try to manage or reduce stress for a better life.