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What Are The Symptoms Of Panic Attacks And Anxiety

Muscle Pain And Tension

Anxiety and Panic Attacks – My Symptoms and Diagnosis

Experiencing frequent feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety can impact the body by contributing to muscle pain and tightness. Muscle tension is a common problem for people with panic disorder. Typically, muscles become tense during a panic attack and can cause feelings of stiffness throughout the body long after the attack has subsided.

Muscle pain and discomfort can often be managed through relaxation techniques. Exercises that can help calm and relax the body include breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization.

There are many self-help books that provide examples and instructions on these techniques. Yoga is an activity that includes many aspects of relaxation with the additional benefits of exercise for panic disorder.

Epidemiology Etiology And Pathophysiology

The 12-month prevalence for GAD and PD among U.S. adults 18 to 64 years of age is 2.9% and 3.1%, respectively. In this population, the lifetime prevalence is 7.7% in women and 4.6% in men for GAD, and is 7.0% in women and 3.3% in men for PD.1

The etiology of GAD is not well understood. There are several theoretical models, each with varying degrees of empirical support. An underlying theme to several models is the dysregulation of worry. Emerging evidence suggests that patients with GAD may experience persistent activation of areas of the brain associated with mental activity and introspective thinking following worry-inducing stimuli.2 Twin studies suggest that environmental and genetic factors are likely involved.3

The etiology of PD is also not well understood. The neuroanatomical hypothesis suggests that a genetic-environment interaction is likely responsible. Patients with PD may exhibit irregularities in specific brain structures, altered neuronal processes, and dysfunctional corticolimbic interaction during emotional processing.4

Panic Attack Treatment And Prevention

Cognitive behavioral therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the first-line, evidence-based treatments for anxiety. These treatments can be used separately or in combination.

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on identifying and addressing anxiety-related thoughts and behaviors. It often involves meeting with a therapist weekly and practicing hands-on strategies each day to manage anxious thoughts and behaviors.

SSRIs are taken daily and can help adjust levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which can affect mood and anxiety. There are many types of SSRIs. A medication provider will determine which one is best for you and will meet with you regularly to monitor benefits and side effects.

Duval doesnt recommend avoidance strategies or using substances such as drugs or alcohol to cope with or abstain from anxious feelings or panic attacks. Incorrect use of substances, including prescriptions, can interfere with relationships and work.

It is a way to mask or avoid the anxiety were not giving ourselves ways to manage it that are going to decrease it long term, Duval says.

Instead, she suggests finding strategies to manage the attacks or reduce the anxiety around having a panic attack.

The challenge is that oftentimes the more we try to prevent something, the more it will happen, Duval says. A big part of managing anxiety and panic is finding ways to face it.

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What Causes Panic Disorder

Panic disorder sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some family members have it while others dont. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain, as well as biological processes, play a key role in fear and anxiety. Some researchers think that people with panic disorder misinterpret harmless bodily sensations as threats. By learning more about how the brain and body functions in people with panic disorder, scientists may be able to create better treatments. Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and environmental factors may play a role.

What Helps To Manage Panic Attacks

Panic Attacks Signs &  Symptoms and How to Deal With Them?

Panic attacks can be frightening, but there are things you can do to help yourself cope. It could help to print off these tips, or write them down, and keep them somewhere easy to find.

During a panic attack:

  • Focus on your breathing. It can help to concentrate on breathing slowly in and out while counting to five.
  • Stamp on the spot. Some people find this helps control their breathing.
  • Focus on your senses. For example, taste mint-flavoured sweets or gum, or touch or cuddle something soft.
  • Try grounding techniques. Grounding techniques can help you feel more in control. They’re especially useful if you experience dissociation during panic attacks. See our page on self-care for dissociation for more information on grounding techniques.

After a panic attack:

  • Think about self-care. It’s important to pay attention to what your body needs after you’ve had a panic attack. For example, you might need to rest somewhere quietly, or eat or drink something.
  • Tell someone you trust. If you feel able to, it could help to let someone know you’ve had a panic attack. It could be particularly helpful to mention how they might notice if you’re having another one, and how you’d like them to help you.

See our pages on self-care for anxiety and treatments for anxiety for more information on what could help.

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Anxiety Attack Symptoms Include:

  • Feeling of losing control or going crazy.
  • Heart palpitations or chest pain.
  • Feeling like youre going to pass out.
  • Trouble breathing or choking sensation.
  • Hyperventilation.
  • Nausea or stomach cramps.
  • Feeling detached or unreal.

Its important to seek help if youre starting to avoid certain situations because youre afraid of having a panic attack. The truth is that panic attacks are highly treatable. In fact, many people are panic free within just 5 to 8 treatment sessions.

Cause Of Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety attacks are usually although not always caused by severe stress. The symptoms depend on the type of attack. The term anxiety attack is sometimes used interchangeably with the term panic attack, but may also refer to any periods of extreme anxiety beyond what a person normally experiences.

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When Someone Is Having A Panic Attack

Below are some tips for you or your loved one to consider during a panic attack:

  • Anxiety cannot increase forever and you cannot experience peak levels of anxiety forever. Physiologically there is a point at which our anxiety cannot become any higher and our bodies will not maintain that peak level of anxiety indefinitely. At that point, there is nowhere for anxiety to go but down. It is uncomfortable to reach that peak but it is important to remember this anxiety will even out and then go down with time.
  • Emotions are like a wave, they will come and they will go.
  • You have experienced this before, you know what to expect, and you will be able to handle it.
  • Avoidance is anxiety’s best friend. Avoidance now will mean sustained anxiety in the future.

The following websites and brochures provide useful information for helping and supporting loved ones with panic disorder:

Answers To Your Questions About Panic Disorder

5 Signs And Symptoms Of Anxiety & Panic Attacks

Answers to your questions about panic disorder.

Panic Disorder is a serious condition that around one out of every 75 people might experience. It usually appears during the teens or early adulthood, and while the exact causes are unclear, there does seem to be a connection with major life transitions that are potentially stressful: graduating from college, getting married, having a first child, and so on. There is also some evidence for a genetic predisposition if a family member has suffered from panic disorder, you have an increased risk of suffering from it yourself, especially during a time in your life that is particularly stressful.

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. It is far more intense than the feeling of being “stressed out” that most people experience. Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • racing heartbeat

  • hot flashes, or sudden chills

  • tingling in fingers or toes

  • fear that you’re going to go crazy or are about to die

You probably recognize this as the classic “flight or fight” response that human beings experience when we are in a situation of danger. But during a panic attack, these symptoms seem to rise from out of nowhere. They occur in seemingly harmless situations–they can even happen while you are asleep.

In addition to the above symptoms, a panic attack is marked by the following conditions:

The answer to this is a resounding YES — if they receive treatment.

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Chest Pain Or Discomfort

Between heart palpitations and hyperventilating, you may also experience anxiety chest pain. The first time this happens is often the scariest, since you may assume its your heart and not realize its anxiety.

Even though chest discomfort is a common panic attack symptom, its important to seek medical care if youve never had chest pain before. This can help you rule out any underlying cardiac conditions.

A doctor can run tests and ask questions to let them know whether its heart-related or anxiety.

Mental Health Treatment Program Locator

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides this online resource for locating mental health treatment facilities and programs. The Mental Health Treatment Locator section of the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator lists facilities providing mental health services to persons with mental illness. Find a facility in your state at www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp.

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Ways To Prevent Panic Attacks

“You need to try to work out what particular stress you might be under that could make your symptoms worse,” says Professor Salkovskis. “It’s important not to restrict your movements and daily activities.”

  • Doing breathing exercises every day will help to prevent panic attacks and relieve them when they are happening
  • Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, will help you to manage stress levels, release tension, improve your mood and boost confidence
  • Eat regular meals to stabilise your blood sugar levels
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking these can make panic attacks worse. Panic support groups have useful advice about how you can effectively manage your attacks. Knowing that other people are experiencing the same feelings can be reassuring. Your GP can put you in touch with groups in your area
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy can identify and change the negative thought patterns that are feeding your panic attacks

How To Tell If You’re Having An Anxiety Attack

Panic Attacks: Common Symptoms and How to Cope

If you feel like you had severe anxiety, then you had an anxiety attack. Any form of severe anxiety can count as an attack. But for those that are experiencing something more like panic attacks, the experience tends to be similar between different people.

Recall that anxiety attacks can mimic other health problems. If you haven’t been to a doctor, it’s a good idea to go at least once to rule out any more serious issues. Make sure your doctor knows about anxiety, however. Not all doctors are aware of the severity of anxiety attack symptoms. Some may not believe that anxiety can cause so many physical symptoms and sensations, but it absolutely can. Thats why its so important to find the right doctor.

The symptoms below are often experienced differently by different people. During an anxiety attack, your body experiences a wave of stress that is so profound, it’s difficult to know exactly how your individual body will react. Yet below are some of the most common symptoms of an anxiety attack:

You may not experience all of these symptoms at once either, and each one may cause various degrees of severity. You may also feel as though there is no way that it is an anxiety attack. Anxiety attacks and panic attacks are often so severe that the sufferers live in constant fear of the symptoms coming back.

Anxiety attacks also tend to peak around 10 minutes . Then as they dissipate, they often leave you feeling fatigued and drained, possibly fearful of another attack.

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What Do Panic Attacks Feel Like

During a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up very quickly. These can include:

  • a pounding or racing heartbeat
  • feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
  • feeling very hot or very cold
  • sweating, trembling or shaking
  • pain in your chest or abdomen
  • struggling to breathe or feeling like you’re choking
  • feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly
  • feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings, which are types of dissociation.

During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you’re:

  • losing control
  • going to die.

What Is Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is characterized by repeated panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden rush of strong fear or discomfort that is accompanied by a cluster of physical and cognitive symptoms, including heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, and fears of dying, going crazy, or losing control.

Panic attacks are common among all anxiety disorders but what sets panic disorder apart is that panic attacks are unexpected and occur “out of the blue” without an obvious trigger . These unexpected panic attacks must be associated with a significant change in behavior or be followed by at least one month of persistent worry about having another attack or about what will happen if you have another panic attack.

Panic disorder is a disorder that many people experience – roughly 2-3% of people per year in the United States suffer from panic disorder .

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Can Anxiety Lead To Panic

A person who has panic disorder may experience anxiety that they are going to have a panic attack. The uncertainty about if or when an attack is going to happen can lead to anxiety between attacks.

For a person with panic disorder, anxiety may trigger a panic attack. The fear of having a panic attack can affect the persons behavior and ability to function in daily life.

The APA suggest there may be a biological factor underlying panic disorder, but scientists have not yet identified a specific marker.

  • tightness in the throat and difficulty breathing
  • trembling or shaking
  • feeling faint

Not every case of anxiety will include all these symptoms. Anxiety can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the trigger and how the person reacts to it.

Faced with an examination, for example, some people might feel mildly apprehensive, while others may experience all the above symptoms.

Usually, when the hazard or perceived danger passes, symptoms go away.

Anxiety that continues for a long time or that is triggered by specific events may be a sign of another disorder, such as social anxiety disorder.

Anxiety often results from stress or feeling overwhelmed.

Common causes of anxiety include:

  • work pressure
  • the use of some medications
  • a recent or past traumatic experience

Triggers of anxiety could include:

  • public speaking
  • exposure to a phobia trigger
  • a fear of having a panic attack

Sometimes, anxiety can also stem from a psychological disorder.

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