What Are The Complications Of Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are highly treatable. Unfortunately, many people put off seeking help because theyre embarrassed. Untreated panic attacks or panic disorder can interfere with your ability to enjoy life. You may develop:
- Anticipatory anxiety: The possibility of having a panic attack triggers extreme anxiety.
- Phobias: A phobia is an extreme, unreasonable fear of something specific. For instance, acrophobia is a fear of heights, while claustrophobia is a fear of enclosed spaces.
- Agoraphobia: Approximately two-thirds of people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia. This anxiety disorder makes you afraid to be in places or situations where a panic attack might happen. The fear can become so extreme that you become too afraid to leave your house.
How Can I Prevent Panic Attacks
Your healthcare provider can help you identify triggers that bring on panic attacks. During psychotherapy, you learn strategies to manage triggering events and prevent an attack. You can also take these actions to lower your odds of having a panic attack:
- Cut back on caffeine.
- Talk to your doctor before taking herbal supplements or over-the-counter medications. Certain substances can increase anxiety.
What Is An Anxiety Attack
Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear. They usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes theres an obvious triggergetting stuck in an elevator, for example, or thinking about the big speech you have to givebut in other cases, the attacks come out of the blue.
Anxiety attacks usually peak within 10 minutes, and they rarely last more than 30 minutes. But during that short time, you may experience terror so severe that you feel as if youre about to die or totally lose control. The physical symptoms are themselves so frightening that many people think theyre having a heart attack. After an anxiety attack is over, you may worry about having another one, particularly in a public place where help isnt available or you cant easily escape.
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What Are The Symptoms Of An Anxiety Attack
Symptoms can vary from person to person but some of the more common symptoms of an anxiety attack are:
- An accelerated, pounding heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating and/or hot and cold sweats
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Feeling like you need to escape
- An intense feeling of fear
I experienced an anxiety attack last week, I hadnt had one in quite a while but this one came out of nowhere and completely caught me off guard, like most anxiety attacks do.
It was as horrible and unbearable as I remembered, my heart rate was rapid and felt like it was pounding against my chest. It got so intense that I could feel a pulsing sensation on my back and my chest began to ache painfully with my irregular breaths.
I was having a discussion at the time, I wouldnt necessarily call it a stressful discussion but I would say that I had some minor anxieties about the topics that were being discussed. I did have a severe headache at the time and looking back I feel that that may have attributed to the attack.
Physical sensations such as pain and irritability can sometimes add to and also elevate our anxiety. I have had my fair share of anxiety attacks over the years and have also spent many hours reading through books and articles in search of any techniques that may help me get through them.
How Do I Know If I’m Having A Panic Attack
ByWendy L Krick | Submitted On September 05, 2009
Panic attacks are very scary and can cause some very real and physical symptoms. Panic attacks can last anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours. Regardless of how long they last they can be very unpleasant and frightening to the person who is suffering. Often panic is brought on when a person is under a lot of pressure and is in a state of worry. Thoughts of fear are typically the reason people suffer from panic or anxiety attacks.
Every person has different symptoms. But typically the person feels like they can hardly breath or that their heart is beating very fast. Their chest may hurt and they may sweat. Often they have a feeling of being in a dream state or not feeling as though they are in their body. Sometimes people notice a tingly sensation on the face or fingers.
Many people who suffer from panic and anxiety have been suffering for years and because of this they feel like they are doomed to suffer forever. But since panic and anxiety attacks are typically caused by the persons thoughts, usually thoughts of fear. Often the sufferer is under extreme worry or are feeling overwhelmed.
So in order to prevent future panic attacks the person simply needs to learn how to change their thoughts and fears. Or find a way to eliminate the stress. One way to eliminate the fear is by finding a therapist or person to talk to. Or often people turn to medication. There are also natural remedies such as meditation.
Types Of Anxiety Disorder
There are several different classified anxiety disorders. Each one features different types of symptoms that can, in some cases, be triggered by specific situations.
Panic disorder : This involves at least two panic attacks accompanied by the constant fear of future attacks. People with panic disorder may lose a job, refuse to travel or leave their home, or completely avoid anything they believe will trigger an attack of anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder : This is a constant state of worry about a number of events or activities in the persons life.
Phobic disorder: This features an incapacitating and irrational fear of an object or situation, for example, a fear of spiders or open spaces . Most adults with phobic disorder are aware that their fear is irrational.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder : This condition is marked by unwanted repeated thoughts and behaviors .
How Can I Best Cope With An Anxiety Disorder
There are several steps you can take to cope with anxiety disorder symptoms. These strategies can also make your treatment more effective:
- Explore stress management: Learn ways to manage stress, such as through meditation.
- Join support groups: These groups are available in-person and online. They encourage people with anxiety disorders to share their experiences and coping strategies.
- Get educated: Learn about the specific type of anxiety disorder you have so you feel more in control. Help friends and loved ones understand the disorder as well so they can support you.
- Limit or avoid caffeine: Many people with anxiety disorder find that caffeine can worsen their symptoms.
- Talk to your healthcare provider: Your provider is your partner in your care. If you feel like treatment isnt working or have questions about your medication, contact your provider. Together, you can figure out how to best move forward.
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What Is A Panic Disorder
If you have a panic disorder, you get intense, sudden panic attacks. These attacks often feature stronger, more intense feelings than other types of anxiety disorders.
The feelings of terror may start suddenly and unexpectedly or they may come from a trigger, like facing a situation you dread. Panic attacks can resemble heart attacks. If theres any chance youre experiencing a heart attack, go to the emergency room. Its better to err on the side of caution and have a healthcare professional check you.
During a panic attack, you may experience:
- Chest pain.
- Feeling of choking, which can make you think youre having a heart attack or going crazy.
Panic attacks are very upsetting. People with panic disorder often spend a lot of time worrying about the next panic attack. They also try to avoid situations that might trigger an attack.
What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder
With GAD, you may feel extreme and unrealistic worry and tension even if theres nothing to trigger these feelings. Most days, you may worry a lot about various topics, including health, work, school and relationships. You may feel that the worry continues from one thing to the next.
Physical symptoms of GAD can include restlessness, difficulty concentrating and sleeping problems.
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What To Do When You Have An Anxiety Attack
Anxiety attacks often need to run their course. Once they’ve started, there is very little that you can do to stop them completely. They’re a reaction that your body has that is somewhat beyond your control. They can be prevented, and their severity can be lessened, but they are very hard to stop.
Reducing its severity has to do with reacting correctly to the symptoms. Remember – the physical symptoms you experience are very real, and very disruptive. But they’re not related to any health problem, and solely a result of your anxiety. If you believe you feel an anxiety attack coming or you’re certain you’re in the middle of the one, try the following:
Drinking water may also calm the mind, and if you feel strong enough, a good jog can get your body to breathe better and use oxygen at a healthier pace.
Know The Difference Between Anxiety And Heart Attack
If youre experiencing symptoms, call 911 immediately. While there are ways to determine the difference between a panic attack and a heart attack, a medical diagnosis is the only way to be sure. Pay special attention to an episode that includes:
These physical indicators can more clearly signal a heart attack.
It is especially important to be aware of your own heart attack risk factors. For example, if youre a smoker with a family history of heart disease and have high blood pressure, youre more likely to experience a heart attack.
If, on the other hand, you experience chronic stress, suffered a recent traumatic event, or have trouble coping with lifes ups and downs, you may be dealing with anxiety. Symptoms of severe anxiety and panic often resemble a heart attack, which can worsen your distress. When anxiety feels like a heart attack, the panic can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, when stressors diminish, the symptoms usually do, too.
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How Do I Know If I Have Anxiety
Anxiety is a normal reaction to many things in life that may cause us to feel threatened, challenged or under pressure. Feeling anxious from time to time is no great cause for concern. However, if you experience persistent anxiety that feels overwhelming, unforgettable and interferes with your daily life, you may be dealing with the symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Always reach out to a mental health professional for expert advice on whether your symptoms meet the criteria for a diagnosis.
What Does Anxiety Attack Mean
Anxiety attacks often have triggers, although they can be triggered by nothing at all. Some people experience anxiety attacks during periods of intense anxiety, but many others experience them “out of nowhere,” usually as a response to a physical sensation. For example, it’s not uncommon to have your first anxiety attack simply because your heartbeat speeds up, because anxiety has caused you to be hypersensitive to these changes.
The causes of anxiety attacks are everything from severe stress to hyperventilation to a need to regain control. It differs for different people, which is why treating it has a great deal to do with identifying triggers. Once you’ve experienced an anxiety attack, the fear of another anxiety attack may actually trigger an attack, because those that are afraid of getting a panic attack again often pay too much attention to their own body, and react to any changes in sensations.
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Anxiety Attack Vs Panic Attack
Have you ever experienced an intense feeling of terror, fear, or apprehension for no apparent reason? If so, you may have experienced a panic attack.
If you experience recurrent panic attacks, you may have a condition known as panic disorder. Panic attacks can also be a sign of other underlying medical or mental health conditions, including sleep disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder , or depression.
Panic attacks can be confusing and scary for the person experiencing them, in that they are usually sudden and are accompanied by extremely intense physical sensations. This can lead a person to believe they may have a serious medical condition.
Because panic attack symptoms do overlap with symptoms of certain serious conditions, it is important to rule out any medical causes.
How Are Panic Attacks Diagnosed
Serious health problems, such as heart disease, thyroid disease and respiratory problems, cause symptoms similar to panic attacks. Your healthcare provider may run tests to rule out a physical problem. If theres no physical cause, your provider may make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and risk factors.
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What Are The Differences
Here are some of the features that distinguish them.
An anxiety attack, or anxiety:
- can have a specific trigger, such as an exam, workplace issues, a health issue, or a relationship problem
- is not a diagnosable condition
- is less severe than a panic attack
- usually develops gradually when a person feels anxious
- involves physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or knot in the stomach
A panic attack:
- often occurs suddenly and unexpectedly and last between a few minutes and an hour, although the negative impact may continue
The term anxiety attack is not listed in the American Psychological Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition .
Concentrate On Your Breathing
Focus on breathing in slowly, then breathing out slowly. It can be helpful to count when youre breathing to focus your mind. You can start small at first, like counting to three as you breathe in and counting to three as you breathe out. When you begin to calm down, you can increase how long you hold each breath to five seconds or seven seconds.
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What Else Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
If you have an anxiety disorder, ask your provider:
- Whats the best treatment for me?
- Do I need medication? What type?
- How long should I take medication?
- What type of psychotherapy will work best?
- What else can I do to manage my symptoms?
- What other conditions am I at risk for?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
An anxiety disorder can make it difficult to get through your day. Anxiety disorder symptoms include feelings of nervousness, panic and fear. You may also have physical symptoms such as sweating and a rapid heartbeat. But you dont need to live like this. Several effective anxiety disorder treatments are available. Talk to your healthcare provider to figure out your diagnosis and the best treatment plan. Often, treatment combines medications and therapy. Anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants, together with CBT, can help you feel your best.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/17/2020.