They come out of the blue and terrify the sufferer. But what are panic attacks? Basically, they are strong feelings of panic or anxiety that come over a person suddenly, like an attack. You might feel like you are dying, suffocating, drowning, or something similar. You may be hyperventilating,
Some might think they are going mad or they are having a heart attack. The symptoms of a panic attack are similar to the symptoms of a heart attack. The difference is, that while heart attacks may be very dangerous indeed, panic attacks are not. They are totally harmless, though they are very unpleasant. There are other differences, too.
If you think that you, or someone you know, is suffering from anxiety attacks or anxiety disorder, then you want to know something about anxiety attack treatment. It is not an imaginary disease, nor does it mean you are ‘crazy’ and need to be locked up.
The first thing you should do is talk to your family doctor and he or she will decide whether you have a medical problem that is causing these symptoms or whether it is anxiety attacks. There are some medical and psychological conditions that cause anxiety attacks as side-effects. What happens next depends on the severity of the attacks, but generally you would be referred to a specialist – a therapist or counselor.
If the condition is severe, you could be prescribed antidepressants. This is because depression is often thought to be the underlying cause of the anxiety attacks. None of these drugs can be used long term, they are prescribed to act as a kind of crutch to help the sufferer gain enough control to start with the therapy.
There are several types of therapy that are used in treating anxiety. They all try to find the root of the problem and then address it. They range from simple coping techniques to complete reprogramming.
When the anxiety attacks are relatively mild, treatment consists mostly of learning how to keep calm. There are techniques such as learning how to control your breathing, how to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, and meditating, for example, which you can use when you feel that an attack is starting. They will help to stop the attack or at least lessen its effects if you cannot stop it. A therapist or counselor will help you to learn these.
There are changes you can make to your lifestyle, too – for example, avoid food and drinks that contain a lot of caffeine, sugar and other stimulants. You should also cut down on alcohol and drugs, or cut them out completely. They don’t help you to avoid the attacks at all – in fact, they make things worse. Exercise is also recommended. This is because you breathe more deeply during exercise and the increased oxygen helps you to feel more positive and upbeat, while also helping you to stay calm. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean pumping iron for hours on end. A stroll in the park for about half an hour a day is enough to produce feelings of calmness and well-being that last long after the exercise session has ended.