Panic Attack


What is a panic attack?

A sudden terror that strikes one’s heart when there is no real danger or apparent cause is referred to as a panic attack. It is generally accompanied by four or more of the following symptoms:

  • A racy heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Headache
  • Feeling dizzy and unsteady or fainting
  • Pain in the chest
  • Disconnection from reality
  • Paranoia about mental instability and fear of death
  • Chills or sudden sweating
  • Numbness or tingling sensations

When these attacks happen often, it is called a panic disorder.

What Happens in the Body During a Panic Attack

When people feel stressed, the sympathetic nervous system revs up and tries to force an action. Once this happens, the parasympathetic nervous system is supposed to wake up and calm the person down. When the parasympathetic nervous system somehow fails, the amygdala or the fear center of the brain is activated. The adrenaline level in the system is increased and the person remains in the stressed state, experiencing a panic attack.

How It Differs from an Anxiety Disorder

A panic attack, unlike an anxiety disorder, though associated with a racy heart and knots in the stomach, is an isolated incident. The intensity of the symptoms associated with a panic attack reaches a peak in about 10 minutes or less and then begins to subside, ending within half an hour at most. Anxiety, on the other hand, builds up over a period of time due to a “real” or “perceived” potential danger to the person. When the buildup of anxiety becomes uncontrollable, it may lead to an episode which would feel like a panic attack.

The exception to the rule

However, some panic attacks may last longer or occur several times. When the latter happens, it becomes difficult to differentiate when each begins or ends. It is also not unusual for an individual to feel worried or stressed for the rest of the day following a panic attack.

Panic Attacks and Other Disorders

Sometimes a panic attack is not an isolated incident. It often exists with mood disorders, and generally, mood disorder symptoms follow after a panic attack. Lifetime prevalence rates of major depression in panic disorder may be as high as 50-60%. Other disorders that exist comorbid with panic disorders are obsessive-compulsive disorders, agoraphobia and other phobias, and schizophrenia.

Risk Factors of Panic Attacks

Genetics

There seems to be a correlation between a person’s genes and the predisposition to a panic attack. Five out of every hundred people in Spain suffer from a form of panic disorder. A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience pointed out that the gene trkC may make a person susceptible to panic attacks. Another study entitled “The Genetics of Panic Disorder” published in the Journal of Medical Genetics concluded that though panic disorder’s etiology is still not well understood, genetic factors still explain about half of the variance between cases of panic disorder.

Major Stress  

Severe stress triggered by an emotionally overwhelming event may lead to a panic attack. People who are suffering or even recovering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) also run the risk of a panic attack or several panic attacks.

Temperament

Temperament is the biologically granted part of a person’s personality. It is a predisposition that someone has, an instinct towards the stimuli that one faces in the environment. It is believed to be more of a case of the person’s biological wiring than an environmentally induced one.  A temperament that is prone to negative emotions or stress could again be a cause for a panic attack.

Depression

Panic disorder can also co-occur with depression. The comorbidity ranges from 10-65% over the life of an individual suffering from depression. Yet nearly 30% of the people have depression even before they are diagnosed with any kind of panic disorder.

Other Health Conditions

Panic attacks are also associated with certain medical conditions or health impairments. Examples of such conditions are hyperthyroidism (when caused by Grave’s Disease) and mitral valve prolapse. In the case of hyperthyroidism, the body produces too much thyroid hormone which causes the heart to beat faster and leads to palpitations and possibly a panic attack. Mitral valve prolapse happens when there is improper closure of the valve between the heart’s upper and lower-left chambers.  This change in blood flow can lead to abnormal heart rhythms and if a person becomes conscious of it, a panic attack.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

The signs and symptoms of a panic attack are:

  • Sense of impending doom or danger
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
  • The feeling of unreality or detachment
  • Fear of loss of control or death
  • Rapid, pounding heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • The feeling of unreality or detachment
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness

Generally, following a panic attack, there is a fear that you will have another one. This fear may cause you to abandon situations that may lead to it altogether.

Why It is Important to Consult a Doctor

People experiencing panic attacks are prone to feel that they have a disease or impairment and therefore consult a doctor. An example would be a person suffering from palpitations and a racy heart approaching a doctor thinking he may have suffered a heart attack. While not so for an isolated panic attack, there is increasing evidence for comorbidity of other medical conditions with a person suffering from a panic disorder.

Understanding Emotions: The Simple Way Around a Panic Attack

Anxiety Represents a Peak and is not Forever

You must understand that though anxiety does build up over time, there is a point beyond which the levels will come down and you would start to feel relaxed. It is important to bide one’s time until that happens.

Emotions are like a Wave, They Will Come and Go

One’s emotions are not entirely controllable. They will come and go as they will. If you understand emotions for what they are, you will be able to better overcome a panic attack when faced with one.

Always in Control

Remember that this is a recurring problem. You have experienced it before, you have been in control of it before and overcame it the last time. If you have done it once, you certainly would be able to overcome it again.

Avoidance and Anxiety are Accomplices

Avoiding your anxiety or your emotions will only lead to more anxiety in the future. It is therefore suggested that one welcomes one’s anxiety-driven emotions and tries to cope with them.

Other Tips to Control a Panic Attack

Breathing Exercise

Calming down one’s breathing can help prevent a panic attack. Controlling one’s breathing helps prevent hyperventilation and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. To do this one must practice mindful breathing outside of a panic attack, so that when a panic attack does occur, one is better prepared for it. In order to practice mindful breathing, one may consult a yoga practitioner.

Muscle Relaxation

PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation), a method developed by American physician Edmund Jacobsen, helps to overcome stress and anxiety. It counteracts the flight-or-fight response which is common in nature when one has to deal with fear. The method involves tensing and then relaxing the muscles while doing controlled breathing to be better prepared to deal with anxiety or a panic attack when it does occur.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is guided by the fact that a person’s thinking or perception shapes how the person acts or behaves. When this faulty or negative thinking process is corrected, a person will be better able to deal with the inconsistencies in his life. Cognitive behavioral therapy is presently used to treat not just panic attacks but other psychiatric disorders as well. One of the common courses of action by therapists involves the therapist trying to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Another is that of asking the subject to take up writing exercises like maintaining a gratitude journal or a panic diary.

Regular Exercise

One cannot speak enough for the goodness of exercise. There is nothing more viable to maintain one’s health, both physical and mental. Regular exercise helps with managing stress and releases chemicals called endorphins in the blood. These endorphins are vital to reducing stress and pain relief. Regular exercise in a social setting such as a gym or a park can also help build a person’s confidence that he/she now has a supportive network that would help him/her to deal better with a panic attack.

Planning Ahead

Being aware of known triggers or situations can help one plan ahead, to better deal with them. This could be through better preparation before activity or reassurance from a person who is a regular at that activity.

Guidance and Reassurance

For instance, when one has a fear of swimming, he/she might ask a regular swimmer what he/she likes about swimming. It might also be helpful to discuss with an instructor on how to deal with the many problems that one might encounter when in the water. Their reassurance and guidance go a long way.

Healthy Distractions

Distractions such as movies and music can also help get through a panic attack. It would be nice to have that favorite movie or song with you to calm your nerves down before a full-blown panic attack. Maintaining a circle of friends and conversing with them is also equally beneficial.

Keeping Yourself Hydrated

A panic attack alters the body’s temperature and gives rise to unpleasant sensations. Hydration helps to keep such symptoms under control. Studies have proven that hydration helps to increase the cortisol levels which help to keep anxiety in check. It also reduces anxious jitters, especially when one is faced with the morning blues!

Internalizing Health Mantras

When we internalize a health mantra and keep repeating the same, it boosts our confidence levels. Examples of such mantras could be “I am safe”, “I am healthy”, and so on.

Following a Healthy Diet

One must follow a healthy diet and maintain appropriate blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar levels can lead to panic symptoms. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, one must not be hungry for more than four hours. It also helps to avoid caffeine and alcohol as these are known to increase stress levels. Also, correct any dietary deficiencies such as those of essential vitamins and minerals.

The Exception

Sometimes these simple tips do not help and panic attacks spiral out of control leading to a severe panic disorder. Then it might be wise to seek medical attention. Medication must not be used in the initial treatment of a panic attack. Examples of medicines that help are benzodiazepines and SSRIs (selective serotonin uptake inhibitors)

Alternative Medicine and Panic Attacks

Certain herbal supplements like kava and St. John’s wort have been known to reduce stress and anxiety and consequently reduce the possibility of a panic attack. Techniques like acupressure and aromatherapy have also proven useful in keeping the incidence of panic attacks low.

Facts

  • 3 Million Americans will suffer from Panic Disorder at some point in their lives.

Facts

  • The Panic Disorder prevalence was highest among adults aged 30-44 in 2001-2003.

Facts

  • Most cases (44%) of panic disorder are serious and need immediate care.

Related Conditions

Want to live a healthy lifestyle?

Subscribe to free FactDr newsletters.

REVAMP YOUR

If you're enjoying our website, we promise you'll absolutely love our new posts. Be the first one to get a copy!

Get factually correct, actionable tips delivered straight to your inbox once a week.

I want the latest scoop on :

We hate spam too. We will never share your email address with anyone. If you change your mind later, you can unsubscribe with just one click

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the FactDr Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of FactDr subscriptions at any time.

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Ground yourself in your general surroundings.
  • Correct any distorted thinking patterns by consulting a therapist.
  • Be aware and mindful of your body.
Don'ts
  • Skip your anti-depressant medication.
  • Avoid situations or places you fear.

 

 

 

Related Conditions

Trending Topics

anal sex
Anal Sex : Tips from experts on how to be kinky yet safe Whether it irks you or stokes your fantasies, anal sex has always been an intriguing sexual act. Learn…
diverticulitis diet
Diverticulitis diet: The right way to eat if you suffer from the disease Are you suffering from diverticultis but clueless about your diet ? Read this complete plan for diverticulitis diet…
hidden benefits walking
9 benefits of walking we bet you didn’t know! Did you know walking can be the miracle pill for eternal youth? Everyone knows walking is good for…
Penis pump: Pump your way out of erectile dysfunction One of the options to treat erectile dysfunction is by the use of a penis pump. It is…
understanding addiction
Addiction explained: An obsession that could cost you your life Is addiction a behavioral disorder? Or is it a chronic disease? How does addiction cause chemical and structural…
Jicama: A fiber-rich tuber for your weight loss goals Pronouced as HEE-kah-ma, Jicama is the "new kid on the block" that has taken the world by the…
eating disorder anorexia
Eating Disorders: Lifestyle choice or a psychological condition? Is eating disorder just a harmless bad habit? Or does it represent grim psychological disorders? Do you want…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
Maltitol: Things you must know about this artificial sweetener Sugar alcohols are produced by fruits and vegetables. Maltitol is an artificially produced sugar alcohol and is used…
healthy habits
10 healthy habits: Have a hearty kick-start to the New Year! Do you set goals that are too difficult for you to maintain? Are to struggling to follow healthy…
dance health benefits
5 unbelievable effects of dance on your overall health! You enjoy dancing, but did you know what else it does to your body? Dancing is not only…
yoga health benefits
How to practice yoga for astounding health benefits Can a 5000-year-old system be the ultimate body healer? Did you know yoga can make you smarter and…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet can bring all…
Milk Thistle skin
Milk Thistle: Find possible cures for fatal diseases in these purple blooms Milk thistle is well-known for treating liver conditions. However, did you know that it comes with a plethora…
Juice Plus: Can you really replace actual fruits with pills?  Juice Plus supplements intend to fill nutritional gaps present in our daily diet. But how successful have they…
nature health benefits
Green Healing: The amazing health benefits of being in nature You have no idea what sitting in a closed room does to your body and mind.Can a stroll…
erectile dysfunction treatment
Erectile Dysfunction: Effective tips to help you get back on charge Erectile dysfunction is a common male sexual dysfunction. Don't stress out. Just follow these amazing tips to get…
Garlic health benefits cloves
Garlic: Nature’s white pill as an effective home remedy What are the secrets hidden in these tiny white pills? Find out the immense health benefits of using…
passion fruit juice
Passion fruit: How one exotic fruit can help you fight infections and cancer! Passion fruit: Why does this exotic fruit have such an enticing name? And how can it protect you…
TBHQ: A carcinogen lingering in your child’s favorite snacks TBHQ - Why you should shun the practice of eating instant noodles or microwave popcorn to get rid…
Anhedonia: Does the chronic inability to feel joy affect you too? How often do you feel dragged down by an invisible force? Do you feel an inexplicable emotional numbness…
Lectin: The common link of proteins between peas and people Lectins are a type of protein that are found majorly in legumes. Most people are find it easy…
Tamarind: The top health benefits of this staple Asian ingredient Did you know this sweet and sour pulpy fruit does more than just add a tangy flavor to…
Improve sex life
9 best tips from around the world for better sex life How can the pungent-smelling garlic pack in a punch to your libido? How could something as slimy as…
Chromium Picolinate: An essential mineral supplement for faster weight loss Did you know that about 1.6 million deaths were directly linked to diabetes globally? How is it linked…
Propolis: Yet another amazing gift by the bees to the humans Bee propolis is yet another generous gift by the bees bestowed on the human race. They utilize substances…
cancer facts
8 hard-hitting truths no one tells you about cancer Did you know that 1.5 million new cases of cancer are reported every year? Can second-hand smoking kill…
liver detox facts
7 liver detox facts and why ignoring these could kill you! Are you taking care of this organ that handles over 500 different vital functions in your body? Your…
Fluoride: An indispensible mineral or a potential toxin ? Fluoride, the main ingredient of toothpaste, has shown a great potential as a cleanser. However, how much fluoride…
lifestyle diseases
The Big 5 lifestyle diseases: How your everyday living might be killing you You'd be shocked to know how unhealthy and potentially fatal your everyday routine could be. Has the modern…
Creatine: Is this the right peak athletic-performance supplement for you? Creatine is the amino acid that boosts our energy. Did you know creatine supplements can help you reach…
Amaranth: Why is this native Peruvian grain called the “crop of the future”? Full of healthy high proteins and gluten-free, the grain, Amaranth, the tasty and ancient pseudo cereal from Peru,…
Exercises or diet? Find out the healthiest way to gain weight Tired of being called skinny all the time? Looking for healthy ways to beef up? Why not try…
Melatonin: Fascinating facts on the hormone that brings you the Zzzs Did you know, melatonin - the chemical that puts you to sleep every night is also involved in…
Carb Cycling: Weighing the pros vs the cons of this diet routine Completely discarding carbs from your life will do you more harm than good. Read more about carb cycling,…
15 Signs on your face you should never ignore 15 telltale signs on your face that might be telling you something about your body that you must…
paleo keto diet
Paleo vs. Keto: Which diet plan is best suited for your body goals? Is eating like a caveman the right way to go? Can you really eat fats to burn fats…
antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic Resistance: How common diseases become deadly Can a cold kill you? How important is to get a flu shot? Why do antibiotics fail against…
nutritional yeast bread
Nutritional Yeast : How can a fungi culture be good for your body? Nutritional yeast: How a simple culture of fungi can transform your skin, digestion, immunity , and much more.…
black seed oil benefits
Black Seed Oil: What secret benefits could it bestow on your health? Black seeds or nigella seeds are tiny packets of health brimming with amazing benefits. Find out why should…
How seitan proved to be a blessing in disguise for vegans worldwide Can only meat-eaters enjoy delicious juicy steaks and burgers? With seitan, the best meat substitute available today,even vegans…
Tart Cherry: The healthiest excuse for taking that second serving of pie Tart cherry has been traditionally used in delectable desserts such as pies. Recent studies have revealed that its…
What is the right way to take a pregnancy test? A pregnancy test is undertaken to determine if you have conceived. A home pregnancy test is the most…
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
fitness routine fun
10 fantastic ways to make your fitness routine more fun! Are you too bored to exercise? Do you avoid gym cause it's too monotonous? Looking for fun and…
occupational hazards types
Occupational Hazards: How to vouch for your health at your workplace Occupational hazards affect millions worldwide. Chemical spills, faulty wires, deadly pathogen, and work-stress can happen anytime. Follow these…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
autoimmune diseases facts
Autoimmune Diseases: Find out if your body is attacking you right now Did you know your body can harm itself? What are autoimmune diseases and why does it harm some…
bananas exercise
10 health reasons why you should go “bananas” over bananas! Bananas:The world's most popular fruit comes with a host of unbelievable health benefits. Find out how you can…
lgbtqia
LGTBQIA : Important pointers for a safe and healthy sex life In the USA alone, the LGBTQIA community accounts for 11 million people. Let us understand what does this…
maltodextrin sugar
Maltodextrin: What are the hidden health benefits of this food additive? Maltodextrin is one of the few food additives that has been relatively deemed safe. Many experts now have…
Tea Tree Oil : The one stop cure for skin ailments and more… The popularity of tea tree oil, an essential oil, as the ultimate skin care pick is not unheard…
Salt dangers
Sodium chloride: The wonders and dangers of the simple table salt Sodium chloride is a salt containing sodium and chlorine ions at a 1:1 ratio. It is edible and…
Rhodiola Rosea: Hoist yourself to high stamina and a stress-free brain Rhodiola rosea, also known as golden root, is a wonder herbal extract that can rev up your energy…
How can berberine supplements help you live longer and healthier? Berberine is a turmeric look-alike herbal extract that is credited with numerous health benefits ranging from diabetes cure…
How can Kegels help you overcome weak pelvic muscles & incontinence? Kegel exercises are pelvic floor strengthening exercises that can help you overcome incontinence issues that rise out of…
Colloidal silver benefits
Colloidal Silver: How silver nanoparticles could enhance immunity and more Silver, though not a vital mineral required your body, still in colloidal form can be useful in boosting…
Oil Pulling: The instant benefits of this ancient Ayurvedic cleansing technique Oil pulling is a great way of making use of easily available cooking oils to achieve high oral…
about mediterranean diet
Why you should be adopting a Mediterranean style of diet today Ever wondered why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy? One simple solution to lowering risk of several deadliest…
ashwagandha brain
Ashwagandha: The best-kept secret of Ayurveda now revealed! Ashwagandha literally means "smell of horse". Don't get bogged down by that one tiny detail because this ayurveduic…
Anti-Inflammatory foods: 18 foods to a disease-free you Anti-inflammatory foods are the foods which are known to reduce the inflammation as well as the pain from…
Cilantro: 11 health reasons that will make you wanna use this garnish more! Call it cilantro or coriander, it remains as every chef's favorite garnish. How can this fresh tasting sprig…
DASH Diet: What to eat in a “Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension”? If you or your loved one is suffering from chronic hypertension (high blood pressure), dash towards a DASH…
Kava: Is it the healthy substitute for alcohol you have been waiting for? Native to the beautiful South Pacific islands, Kava is a famous beverage rooted in the local culture. It…
Chlorella: Therapeutic powers of the billion-year-old algae now within your reach Chlorella - A billion year old nutrient-rich algae that can potentially ward off cancers and high cholesterol; the…
Hemp Seeds: The actual science behind this controversial crop Inspite of being credited as a superfood, hemp seeds are still shrouded with layers of controversies. Are these…
Aphrodisiacs
Aphrodisiacs: These are the best foods to get you in the right mood While wine and chocolates have forever been associated with romance, there are several other aphrodisiac foods that can…
Lauric Acid: 8 health benefits you can derive from coconuts Appropriate use of saturated fats containing lauric acid can provide you numerous health benefits. This is the main…
turmeric skin
We bet you didn’t know that turmeric could be this beneficial! Did you know that turmeric, a humble ingredient found in most Indian kitchens could cure countless ailments and…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
acne removal tips
Anatomy of acne: 7 instant steps to kiss those zits goodbye Blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples-call them what you may. Acne is never good news.Did you know some of the…
Keto diet healthy
Keto Diet: Did you know you could eat fats to burn fats? Keto diet - A wonder diet that lets you eat fats and lose weight too! Read on to…
Spirulina: Battle diabetes and cholesterol with this blue-green algae Spirulina, a species of salt water algae, has now become a billion dollar industry. How you can use…
Dragon Fruit – Blessing from Nature’s Basket The dragon fruit is packed with nutrients and yet low on calories and is the dream food that…
green tea benefits
Green Tea: Does it really aid weight loss and reverse aging? A centuries-old concoction of fresh green leaves, green tea holds the secret to healthy weight loss & delayed…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
Isagenix diet
Isagenix Diet: Do you really need liquid meal replacements to lose weight? Isagenix Diet - What are liquid meal replacements and why is the world going ga-ga over them? Are…
chia seeds weight loss
Chia seeds: How to consume this staple Aztec food to get a leaner body Chia seeds: What is the actual reason for its sudden popularity? Why are celebrities swearing by its amazing…
Vitamin D3: Speed up your journey to a fit body and mind Well, we all are aware how important vitamins and minerals are. But among all of these nutrients, vitamin…
Valerian Root: The best way to achieve tranquil sleep every night Valerian root is probably one of the oldest and safest way to cure your insomnia. Find out how…
Dates: The complete list of instant health benefits this dry fruit can bestow Why you should regularly go for dates? Because, these small bulbs of healthy goodness are brimming with essential…
The complete “what to eat” guide for gluten intolerance Does eating breads and pastas often makes you nauseous? Gluten intolerance is a common reason why you might…
Whey Protein: The real reason why this supplement is a must for bodybuilders Whey protein is the go-to supplement and shake for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. Read more to find out…
CLA: A breakthrough weight loss supplement with minimal side effects Tried every weight loss supplement in the market with no substantial gain? Why not try CLA supplements, derived…
BRAT Diet: What is the right way to follow this diarrhea-relieving diet? BRAT diet, a simple diet consisting of just bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, can help you combat the…
Gingko Biloba: Therapeutic lessons from the world’s oldest tree The Ginkgo Biloba, well known as the maidenhair,is the oldest living tree and the oldest living fossil. It…
Coconut oil woman
Coconut Oil: How one oil dominates the kitchen and the medicine kit too Coconut oil has been a favorite in many Asian kitchens. But more than a cooking oil, coconut oil…
Low fat diets
A complete list of low-fat diets and how to follow them Low-fat diets help you lose weight in a healthy way, but it works only with regular exercise and…
Stye : The best natural home remedies to ease the pain Styes developing inside the eyelid tend to be more painful whereas external styes are less painful and ooze…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…