What are panic attacks and panic disorder?
A panic attack is a sudden, unpleasant and debilitating experience in which the sufferer often feels as if he or she is dying. One very noticeable panic attack symptom is what feels like a rapid heartbeat, as if the heart is going to explode. Panic attack symptoms include:
– fear of dying
– shallow and/or rapid breathing
– sweating, shaking, trembling
– severe anxiety
– fear of a heart attack
– feeling out of control
– hot flashes or chills
– fear of going crazy
– visual disturbances
– dizziness or feeling faint
– numbness or tingling of extremeties
– feeling as if the walls are closing in
Recurring panic attacks are a symptom of panic disorder, which affects one in 75 people. The symptoms for panic disorder are the same as for an individual panic attack, except that the sufferer experiences panic attacks on a more regular basis. Panic disorder symptoms include the fear of having another panic attack, a fear that in itself could bring on a panic attack. Panic disorder in turn can lead to “situational avoidance,” which means that the sufferers feel compelled to avoid every place or situation in which a previous panic attack has occurred, to the point where they may not even leave their houses. Panic disorder that proceeds to this point of phobia can be very serious and disruptive to a normal life.
What is the cause of a panic attack?
Panic attacks have a variety of causes, some physical, some mental and some emotional. Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to panic attacks, while gender also plays a role, as women are more prone to panic attacks than men. Sometimes hidden allergies or sensitivities to food, drink or other chemical such as a drug or pollutant can trigger a panic attack, while at other times memories or trauma can push the panic button. Alcohol and drug use can be both causes and effects of panic attacks and panic disorder. Some people suffer panic disorder as a side effect of post-traumatic stress disorder that involves some very serious and disturbing experiences, while everyday chores and events, such as having a child or getting married, can also trigger panic attacks. Driving is a fairly common source of debilitating panic attacks.
How can you prevent or stop panic attacks?
There are various forms of medication that can be taken either during an acute panic attack to ease its symptoms or regularly in treating panic disorder. Recurring panic disorder requires a more long-term strategy, as several of these medications are highly addictive and not beneficial to the health over the long run. Many methods have been tried, from meditation and visualization to nutrition and breathing, with varying results. One of the more effective methods was developed by panic expert Joe Barry, author of “Panic Away.” This method requires the sufferer to actually “welcome” the panic attack, saying, “Bring it on!” In conjunction with medication, nutrition and other methods and strategies, this technique may be very effective in preventing or stopping a panic attack.
With the proper diagnosis and treatment, you can control, stop, prevent or overcome panic attacks and panic disorder, and lead a normal, happy life.