The 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.