This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Panic attacks are terrifying to experience. One moment you are going about your day, then next, you are frozen with an intense sense of doom and danger. And though these episodes usually only take up about twenty minutes, they can be scary enough to ruin the rest of your day.
But what exactly are panic attacks, and how can you prevent yourself from experiencing them? In this article, you will learn the basics of panic attacks, including treatment and prevention strategies.
What Are Panic Attacks?
Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear that manifest into physical symptoms. A person having a panic attack will feel an intense sense of dread or doom and may even feel like they are experiencing a more serious physical condition (such as a heart attack). Some people report that they feel like they are dying or losing control of their bodies.
What’s even scarier about panic attacks is that they can come out of nowhere and seemingly have no cause. You could have a panic attack right in the middle of work or when you are about to fall asleep. You don’t need to necessarily be feeling any anxiety when the panic attack occurs, which is why some people think they are experiencing a different health issue.
Common Symptoms of Panic Attacks
Panic is an extreme and much more painful version of anxiety. It is an intense feeling of danger, doom, loss of control, or death. In severe cases, the person may feel detached from reality or themselves during the episode.
But what makes panic attacks so terrifying to experience are the physical symptoms that accompany them. Some of these physical symptoms include:
- Chest pains
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Hot flashes
- Tingling sensations
- Abdominal cramping and similar issues
Though panic attacks are painful and scary to experience, they are not life-threatening. Therefore, if you know you are experiencing a panic attack, try to remember that you are not in a real threat of danger. However, if you believe you are experiencing a more serious health condition (such as a heart attack), then please call emergency services immediately.
Causes of Panic Attacks
Currently, there are no known causes of panic attacks. As mentioned before, they can start at any time with no cause or obvious trigger. However, there are some factors that make them more likely to appear.
Certain mental health conditions can make someone more prone to panic attacks. For example, people who live with panic disorder or other anxiety disorders are more likely to have panic attacks. Furthermore, living with chronic stress, depression, and other mood disorders may increase the likelihood of panic attacks.
It is important to note that those with a family history of panic attacks or the aforementioned conditions are more likely to develop panic attacks themselves. Likewise, people with a history of substance use are also prone to panic attacks.
How To Prevent And Treat Panic Attacks
It is important to note that if you have experienced a panic attack recently, it is very likely that you won’t experience another one anytime soon. This is because most people only experience one or two panic attacks throughout their life, so they are rarely recurring events.
However, a small fraction of the population does experience panic attacks more often, which often leads to the development of panic disorder. If you are experiencing frequent panic attacks, you will need to discuss these episodes with a doctor or therapist for management and treatment.
Since panic attacks are more likely to occur if you experience anxiety, stress, or similar disorders, you should work to treat these conditions if you live with any of them. Counseling and medication prescribed by a psychiatrist are common treatment options for these conditions.
Even if you don’t have a history of these conditions, a therapist or psychiatrist may treat your panic attacks with psychotherapy or anti-anxiety medication.
Furthermore, it is a good idea to incorporate some stress-relieving activities, such as breathing exercises, meditation, or some form of creative expression, into your routine. Finding healthy ways to calm yourself down after a stressful day can keep your feelings of anxiety and panic low, thus making panic attacks less likely to occur.
Also, try to reduce your workload or responsibilities, if possible. Being overwhelmed with life in general can contribute to feelings of anxiety, panic, or chronic stress.
If you have experienced panic attacks, then you know they are not something to be dismissed. Many people who experience panic attacks become even more panicked as they worry about experiencing more episodes in the future. However, by discussing your episodes with a therapist and creating a more calming lifestyle, you are very likely to prevent future panic attacks from occurring.
For more information on treating panic attacks, you will find further reading and resources at BetterHelp.