Panic: racing heart, trembling, sweating, dizziness –all striking without warning– leaving you with a sense of terror. If you're a sufferer of panic attacks, these are just a few of the symptoms you may experience on a regular basis. Other common symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest pains or heaviness in chest, tingling in hands, feet, legs or arms, and the fear of going crazy, losing control or dying.
We know that about 5% of Americans suffer from panic attacks. Some health care professionals believe that the reported cases are actually low, since many people experience symptoms but never receive treatment. Many people refuse to seek help because they are embarrassed or ashamed of their condition.
Facts to Know About Panic Attacks:
- A panic attack can last from several minutes up thirty minutes or more.
- They can strike several times in a short period of time.
- About half of all panic attacks during sleeping.
- Although they may seem to appear from out of the blue, they typically follow a long period of stress, reflecting over a period of weeks or months.
- In individuals forward to this disorder, any kind of emotional or physical disturbance can trigger hyperventilation (shallow breathing) without him or her even being aware of it, triggering a panic attack.
What Not To Do About Your Panic Attack:
- Do not keep your panic episodes a secret! It's nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. Your body is experiencing what is known as the "fight or flight" response, a normal bodily response if you were in a truly life or death situation. The difficulty is that the response is being triggered when there is no actual life threatening event.
- Do not use drugs or alcohol to calm your anxiety or panic symptoms. While they may give you temporary relief, in the long run, drugs or alcohol will not solve your problem. Chronic use of drugs and / or alcohol may create an additional issue to confront.
- Do not isolate yourself or limit your activities as a result of your symptoms. Many individuals who experience panic attacks are fearful of being with others for fear of another attack occurring or will avoid places where a previous attack occurred. Limiting your social contacts or contact with your environment only intensifies the fear.
What To Do About Your Panic Attack:
- Let others be supportive of you. You do not have to announce to the whole world that you have this problem, but letting people close to you know what you're going through can take some of the stress off of you.
- Talk with your primary care physician or mental health professional about your condition. There are several effective approaches that can be taken to treat panic attacks.
Types of Treatment: There are several effective forms of treatment for this condition. They include:
- Cognitive / behavioral therapy – explores the psychological and social stressors that may be contributing to the panic and explores how to make behavioral changes to address the problem.
- Relaxation techniques – involve learning muscle relaxation, sensation focusing and visualization to address the symptoms.
- Biofeedback – used to teach individuals to control bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and skin temperature in order to reduce anxiety and panic.
- EEG Neurofeedback – a revised form of biofeedback, neurofeedback trains the brain to slow the brain wave patterns that contribute to the "fight or flight" response in panic attacks.
- Medication prescribed by a primary care physician or a psychiatrist is another method of treatment for this condition.