Who Gets Panic Attacks
At least 6 million Americans suffer from panic attacks and panic disorder both conditions classified as anxiety disorders. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , about 2-3% of Americans experience panic disorder in a given year and it is twice as common in women as in men. Panic disorder typically affects individuals when theyre in their 20s but is also seen in young children, adolescents, and older adults.
The End Of Everything: What A Panic Attack Feels Like
Only 16, Caroline, had her first panic attack a year ago. Her mother was dropping her off at her summer job at a local school when, without warning, a full-blown panic attack engulfed her. My heart started racing and my body felt so hot. I started to sweat and shake uncontrollably. My vision became distorted and my body felt limp, like a wet noodle, she says. For 20 minutes, until the panic attacked passed, Caroline refused to get out of the car. Her mother didnt know what to do.
Kirstie Craine Ruiz, 46, has lived with anxiety, panic attacks, and panic disorder for about ten years. For a long time, she had full-blown attacks 2-3 nights a week. I would usually awake to a racing heart or the feeling of my heart expanding in my chestas it might explodeFrom there, I would begin to panic and my heart would go even fasterand my body would shake so hard that it felt like I was having a convulsion. I could barely breathe and was usually pretty sure I was having a heart attack and that I was going to die. Sometimes Id go the ER and theyd hold me overnight because my heart would be going so fast and they couldnt get it to go down.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is 70 To 90 Percent Effective As A Treatment For Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is one of the most treatable anxiety disorders. The prevailing treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy . A new offshoot of CBT, known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy , has also been found effective in treating panic disorder. Psychologist Steven Hayes developed ACT in part as a way to treat his own panic disorder. This form of therapy uses acceptance and mindfulness techniques to change how you relate to your physical sensations of anxiety and anxiety itself.
CBT is an incredibly effective treatment for panic disorder. Seventy to ninety percent of people who undergo CBT will get better, says Gruner.
A key part of CBT in treating panic is a method called interoceptive exposure, in which the person deliberately confronts the unpleasant physical sensations that are causing anxiety. People become more sensitive to these sensations because they fear and avoid them, so facing the sensations and learning that they are not dangerous can lower anxiety sensitivity.
CBT sessions are usually conducted on a weekly basis and last for around 12 to 16 sessions. The treatment tends to show long-lasting results, and relapse is uncommon.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are also often used to treat depression and anxiety disorders, with or without CBT. These drugs can be effective, but CBT has been found to be a longer-lasting treatment than SSRIs.
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Engage In Light Exercise
Research shows that regular exercise can not only keep the body healthy but boost mental well-being, too.
Experts have found that exercising at 60 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate for 20 minutes three times per week can help reduce anxiety.
If you are not used to exercising, talk with your doctor before starting. There is some evidence that starting aerobic exercise anew can trigger additional anxiety in people with an anxiety disorder. Building up gradually can help your body adjust and avoid breathing problems. Aerobic exercise includes activities such as running on a treadmill.
What Is An Anxiety Attack
An anxiety attack is a high degree stress response activated by either overly apprehensive behavior or by the involuntary action of a chronically stressed body.
In other words, anxiety attacks have two main causes:Voluntary anxiety attacks: When we worry something terrible might happen and the body responds with a high degree stress response.
Involuntary anxiety attacks: When the body activates a high degree stress response all by itself due to the adverse effects of chronic stress.
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Stopping Panic: What To Do When Youre Having A Panic Attack
Here, some strategies that have worked for others that may help you:
Keep Your Mind In The Present
Notice five things you can see around you. Then, four things you can touch. Three things you can hear. Two things you smell. One thing you taste. When you stay grounded in whatâs going on around you, it gives your mind something better to do than focus on fear or bounce from one worry to the next.
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Inspection Of Personal And Professional Life Issues:
The inspection of personal and professional life issues also matters a lot. Your psychologists also ask about your life issues to solve your problem adequately. Dont be shy by sharing your life circumstances with your mental health trainer.
They can understand what your mind thinks, respond and desire for your life goals. Everyone is facing different kinds of issues in the personal and professional life issues but that does not mean you cant live a happy life.
What To Do When Someone Else Is Having A Panic Attack
This section will provide some tips on how to help a person having a panic attack.
First, try talking them through a few of the methods above. For instance, help them find a peaceful spot, encourage them to take slow, deep breaths, and ask them to focus on a nearby object.
If you do not know the person, introduce yourself and ask them if they need help. Ask them if they have had a panic attack before, and if so, what helps them regain control.
People can also try the following tips when someone else is having a panic attack:
- Try to remain calm. This will help them relax a little more.
- Suggest moving to a quiet spot nearby and help them find one. Sitting down in a comfortable place can be very effective, as it allows them to focus on their breathing.
- Remind the person that panic attacks always end.
- Stay positive and nonjudgmental. Avoid validating any negative statements.
- Try having a gentle, friendly conversation to distract them and help them feel safe.
- Avoid telling them to calm down or telling them that there is nothing to worry about, as this devalues their emotions.
- Stay with them. If they feel that they need to be alone, make sure they remain visible.
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Treatment Options For Your Clients
Treatment options are suitable for clients who are experiencing panic attacks because of a clinically significant mental health condition such as panic disorder.
The first port of call for such clients should be Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy . CBT is a diverse therapy that can involve any combination of a suite of therapeutic interventions, unified by the goal of helping your client reevaluate their beliefs and reprogram the habitual links between their beliefs and behaviors.
As the name suggests, the mental health interventions involved in CBT can be categorized as either cognitive or behavioral.
Cognitive therapies involve identifying and disrupting beliefs that cause the negative mood or anxiety that trigger panic attacks and educating patients to understand their panic attacks and put psychological distance between themselves and their experiences.
Behavioral therapies can involve relaxation techniques, practicing how to navigate potentially triggering situations, and exposure therapy, in which a client is safely guided through a direct or visualized experience of a potentially triggering situation.
Whatever combination of interventions works best for your client, CBT has been shown to be a successful therapy in most cases and is well suited to managing panic attacks, where controlling those triggering links between beliefs and behaviors is crucial.
Unresponsiveness To Standard Treatments
Before considering a patient to be treatment unresponsive, it should be ascertained that the diagnosis was correct, adherence to the treatment plan was sufficient, the dose prescribed had covered the full range, and there had been a trial period of adequate duration. When patients report previous treatment failures, it often turns out that a drug was only prescribed in the lowest dose or was stopped within the first 2 weeks due to side effects that occurred in the initial phase before the patient could experience improvement.
Elderly patients may take longer to show a response. Table III contains options in case of drug inefficacy or intolerance. In patients who are unresponsive to psychotropic drugs, the addition of CBT is generally recommended.
A combination of antidepressants and benzodiazepines is sometimes used in treatment-refractory cases.
When all standard treatments have failed, the off-label use of drugs may be considered, for example, drugs licensed for another anxiety disorder or that are not licensed but have shown efficacy in clinical studies. Such drugs include quetiapine and agomelatine.
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Follow Your Treatment Plan
If you have been experiencing persistent panic attacks, make sure you discuss your symptoms with your doctor. Panic attacks are rarely associated with a serious health issue, but your clinician will be able to rule out the possibility of different mental health and medical conditions.
Depending on your symptoms and needs, your treatment plan may include prescribed medication and psychotherapy. Your doctor will be able to assist you in using effective ways to cope with your panic attacks.
Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia was traditionally 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 and panic disorder. Although it can develop at any point, agoraphobia usually appears within a year of your first recurrent panic attacks.
If youre agoraphobic, youre afraid of having a panic attack in a situation where escape would be difficult or embarrassing. You may also be afraid of having a panic attack where you wouldnt be able to get help. Because of these fears, you start avoiding more and more situations.
For example, you may begin to avoid:
- Crowded places such as shopping malls or sports arenas.
- Cars, airplanes, subways, and other forms of travel.
- Social gatherings, restaurants, or other situations where it would be embarrassing to have a panic attack.
- Physical exercise in case it triggers panic.
- Certain food or drinks that could provoke panic, such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, or specific medications.
- Going anywhere without the company of someone who makes you feel safe. In more severe cases, you might only feel safe at home.
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Valerian Root For Anxiety
This is great for sleeplessness. It has great sedative properties. Valerian smells sort of nasty, so most people take it as a pill or tincture, instead of a tea. If you wish to try it, take it at night, not before some important function! Valerian is commonly incorporated with various other sedative natural herbs like lemon balm, chamomile, and hops.
If You Think You Have Panic Disorder Self
Many individuals with panic disorder realize they have the disorder after a trip to the emergency room , as panic attack symptoms can easily be mistaken for a heart attack or stroke. An ER can only offer short-term relief or provide a referral to mental health services.
Many people who are concerned about panic disorder visit their primary care provider . Unfortunately, according to Gruner, PCPs can sometimes mistreat panic disorder by prescribing benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam or klonopin . However, current research shows that benzos are a counterproductive long-term treatment approach.
Benzodiazepines can reduce your anxiety in the short-term, but people can become dependent on them to the point where they dont feel safe without it. They usually attribute progress to the benzo, so it can make treatment progress difficult, says Gruner.
Gruner advises individuals to be wary if their PCP prescribes benzodiazepines. There is increased awareness among PCPs now with the problem of prescribing benzos to people with panic disorder, but its not perfect, says Gruner. So, its worth educating yourself about effective treatment before meeting with your PCP.
Ideally, a PCP would recommend a therapist or psychiatrist. A cognitive behavioral therapist who has experience with anxiety disorders is an ideal choice.
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Anxiety And Panic Attacks
Although anxiety may fuel a panic attack, its a separate condition that can be gradual and chronic.
Panic attacks, by contrast, are marked by an intense and overwhelming sense of fear or dread in response to an imminent threat. Panic attacks, often brief, are brought on by the bodys fight or flight response a natural and adaptive process that helps fight off danger or run from it.
This process can be triggered any time we perceive ourselves to be in harms way and it can happen within the context of any anxiety or stress disorder.
If someone has a fear of dogs, encountering an unfamiliar dog could trigger a panic attack, Duval says. Someone who has social anxiety or worries about being judged negatively by others might have a panic attack when giving a speech or introducing themselves to new people.