Clear Panic Away

Natural Remedies for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Category: Panic Symptoms

Am I Having a Panic Attack?

panic attackThe technical definition of a panic attack is “a sudden feeling of terror that strikes without warning.” Panic attacks seem to affect more women than men. In fact, women are two times more likely to get them than men.

People who have anxiety and panic attacks are usually more likely to suffer from depression. They’re also more prone to abuse alcohol and drugs.

Panic attacks can occur anytime. Although they often occur during periods of extreme stress or worry, they have even been known to occur in your sleep. This is believable, however. Even though you go to sleep, your mind doesn’t. You may be stressing even in your sleep and just don’t know it!

At least 40 million adults in the United States (close to 20% of the population) will have at least one panic attack in their lives. Usually, the attack occurs between the ages of 15 and 19, with a many of the people that experience the first attack experiencing second attacks, and so on. If they recur too much, you should see your doctor about how to handle them.

So how do you know if you’re having a panic attack? In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, signs, and proper things to do when you think you might be having a panic attack.

What Causes Panic Attacks?

It is unclear on what exactly causes panic attacks, but many studies show that they have a tendency to run in families by either one or both parents. They are also likely to occur if there are drastic changes in your life, such as moving or losing a loved one.

Many people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol have panic attacks. Some studies also show that many addicts having withdrawal symptoms from certain drugs are more likely to get panic attacks.

Some disorders can cause panic attacks too. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the most frequent disorder that causes panic attacks, aside from General Anxiety Disorder. Another disorder that may cause panic attacks is schizophrenia.

The Difference Between Signs and Symptoms

Since we are going to cover both the signs and the symptoms of a panic attack, it is important to know the difference between the two.

Symptoms include everything that the patient sees or feels. Signs include everything your peers (including your doctor) sees. For example, symptoms of constipation include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Signs of constipation are a tight stomach, inactive sphincter, etc.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

Keep in mind that symptoms are what you see or feel. Some of the symptoms include:

  • a racing heartbeat
  • a feeling of weakness and dizziness
  • tingling or numbness in your hands, fingers, and toes
  • a sense of doom and dying
  • feeling hot and sweaty
  • chills, chest pain
  • difficulty in breathing or sense of choking
  • trembling or shaking vigorously
  • nausea or stomachache
  • the feeling of a loss of control of yourself

In children, symptoms include a sudden drop in grades, avoiding school, separation from parents, and sometimes even substance abuse, depression, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Symptoms in women often show more frequently than those in men.

Signs of a Panic Attack

Signs of a panic attack are generally hard for others to notice unless they see you in one, which can be hard since they only occur for ten minutes or less. You can’t “will” a panic attack on demand. However, a doctor may diagnose you with panic attacks if you tell her you have at least four of the above symptoms. (After all, it would be rare for your doctor to actually witness you having a panic attack.)

Some signs a psychologist may look for as you’re talking to them is excessive nervousness, excessive worrying that something big will happen over something small for long periods of time, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, irrational fear, chronic indigestion, and even physical signs such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

Most people have at least two panic attacks before they get diagnosed. They often worry or fret about changing their daily lives because of the diagnosis.

Treatment of Panic Attacks

The usual treatment for panic attacks from a doctor is anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications with the treatment of anxiety. However, this is a short-term “stop gap” solution. It only relieves the symptoms, but doesn’t treat the cause.

Psychotherapy is often undertaken to help a person understand the disorder and learn how to deal with it.

However, you can often try relaxation techniques at home such as deep breathing, positive thinking, or daydreaming. There is a comprehensive guide that can help you with this to “cure” your anxiety and panic attacks (by teaching you certain proven behavioral techniques.)

Also, caffeine can sometimes promote anxiety, so it’s usually best to reduce or stop your caffeine intake. Exercising and eating healthy, well-balanced meals daily will help to reduce the symptoms of panic attacks. Several herbal remedies are also used for relaxation and to relieve symptoms.

Remember, even if you suffer from this chronic disorder, you will not likely have to change your daily lifestyle. You’re part of the 2.4 million people who suffer from panic attacks, so you’re not alone. You can get through this. They are not life-threatening (as much as they feel like it!), and there are many ways to stop the suffering.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

panic-buttonIf you’ve had a panic attack, you know it.” We’ve heard this bit of wisdom before. But it’s easy to mistake panic attack symptoms for something else – even, in some cases, a heart attack, stroke or “going crazy.”

Whether you suspect a panic attack or something more imminently harmful, do see your doctor the first time. There could be a physical cause. But if you’re curious about panic attack symptoms and wonder if you’re “normal,” here’s what many people experience:

Heart palpitations/quickened heartbeat/skipped heartbeats.

These are among the most commonly reported symptoms of a panic attack. The reason? Adrenaline. When you panic, adrenaline is pumped out at a fast rate. The adrenaline causes your heart to beat faster in order to allow you to run if the danger is real/imminent.

Please note this is NOT physically harmful to you if you do not have an underlying heart condition. It is your body’s normal response to a feeling of fear or danger. Believe it or not, your body thinks it’s trying to help, not hurt you.

Shallow, quick breathing.

This is another of your body’s safety mechanisms. The body can not tell the difference between real (i.e., a tiger standing in front of you) and imagined (fear of a panic attack) danger. It is trying to get you ready to flee the situation if need be. So it produces quicker spurts of oxygen into the body.

Dizziness.

This is another very common panic attack symptom. It may or may not be caused by shallow breathing (see above).

Shaking.

This is a combination of adrenaline and generalized fear.

A feeling of choking or of smothering.

The throat may feel tighter during a panic attack due to muscles tightening up. This may make you feel as if you’re choking even though you’re not. Simple rule of thumb: if you’re able to speak, there is air getting into and going out of your airway.

Sweating.

Your palms and forehead and face are usually the places you’ll feel sweat break out.

A feeling that you’re literally going crazy.

You may feel that you’re losing your mind and that you may suddenly do something “crazy” in response. Generally, this does not actually happen during a panic attack.

A feeling of impending doom.

The mechanism behind this is little understood, but a generalized feeling of doom is a frequently felt effect during panic attacks.

A feeling that you’re genuinely dying.

This is not surprising. You’re undergoing a series of physical symptoms that are frightening and seem to come out of nowhere. Many, many panic attack sufferers report a fear of dying during the panic attack. (See below for a few words about that.)

Nausea.

Nausea accompanies dizziness for many people. It can also be a symptom of fear in general.

A sense of unreality.

You may feel you’re “outside yourself,” watching what’s going on. Or you may feel that people are talking more loudly than usual and that colors are brighter, in a sort of fish-eye lens way. You may also feel as though objects are farther away or closer than you logically know they should be.

Numbness or tingling.

You will usually feel this in your fingers. Some panic attack sufferers feel numbness and tingling on the face, the arms and/or legs as well.

Flushing or chills.

Your body temperature may vacillate between chills and bursts of warmth, especially on your face.

Are These Symptoms Dangerous?

In general, no, and this is important to remember while you’re having a panic attack.

Panic attacks don’t kill and they don’t cause permanent injury. It may feel like your heart is about to stop or like you’re literally dying. But it won’t and you’re not.

In fact, the single worst thing you’re fearing during a panic attack is the fear itself. Being afraid of the symptoms causes you to panic more, which causes more physiological changes – continued quick, shallow breathing; more adrenaline output; etc.

Will I Faint During a Panic Attack? Will the Attack Last Forever?

Fainting during a panic attack is very, very unlikely and very, very rare. You probably won’t faint during a panic attack.

You may have had the experience of running away from the situation while you’re having a panic attack. After you’ve gone to what you perceive to be a safer location, your panic attack goes away.

It is important to know that the panic attack would have eventually resolved anyway. It went away faster due to your perception that you were going some place “safer,” but no panic attack lasts forever. Period.

Can I ‘Train Myself Out Of’ Panic Attacks?

Yes, over time, most people can eliminate or at least minimize the amount and/or severity of their panic attacks. Keeping the above facts in mind will be a huge help to you. You will reduce your fear of the panic attacks themselves and hence, over time, reduce them.

There are many great books out there (see a review of this one) that go into the mechanics of a panic attack and specifically address how to minimize or eliminate them. Also read the other articles on this site, which specifically address making your condition better.

You’re not alone. There’s help out there — but there’s also help in there: within yourself. Panic attacks are not uncommon. You’re not weird, you’re not “different” and you’re not going crazy. You’re a panic attack sufferer – and there is help, and hope.

 

 

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