Panic attacks can appear suddenly and cause severe fear when there is no real danger.
Common symptoms include an accelerated heart, sweating, chest pains, dizziness and chills. Although many people struggle with the condition, it is still very poorly understood.
Panic attack causing a heart attack? How long can a panic attack last? Can panic attacks make you faint? The answers may surprise you!
What People Get Wrong About Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are an exaggerated reaction to stress and anxiety.
You may have heard someone say something like “Oh, I was so worried, I almost had a panic attack,” “You scared me so much I started having a panic attack,” or “I had a panic attack” because I was so nervous.
These kinds of statements undermine what it means to have real panic attacks.
The anxiety or nervousness expected during stress or the situation in life are not the same as having a panic attack.
In addition, people who have panic attacks do not overreact to anything in their environment.
That would imply that the person somehow has control over their symptoms. People with panic disorder have attacks that happen unexpectedly, without warning or any indication in the environment.
Panic sufferers can learn to handle these attacks, but they have no control over the fact that they experience them.
Deep breaths will help decrease panic attacks
People often believe that taking a few deep breaths will make a panic attack go away. However, this can cause the affected person to feel dizzy and as if they are suffocating.
Instead, it is better to take inhalations and superficial exhalations to restore calmness.
Panic attacks can only occur when the person is awake.
Panic attacks occur most often when a person is awake, however, it can also occur while the person is deeply asleep.
Known as nocturnal panic attacks, these symptoms can wake a person from their sleep. It is not uncommon for a person to feel scared when this happens.
Nighttime panic attacks are often met with feelings of fear and a sense of disconnection from oneself and from the environment.
The person may believe that he is having a nightmare and it can be very difficult to fall asleep once the panic attack subsides.
Panic disorders have no solution
People often believe that their panic disorder will affect them for life. However, advances in treatment, improved medication and cognitive behavioral therapy help patients to better manage the disease and lead a happier life.
Panic attacks can drive you crazy.
When the panic strikes, the person may fear losing control completely. Often there is a feeling of shame. In addition, many fear that they will lose their heads completely and go crazy.
The truth is that although panic attacks are most likely caused by an underlying mental health condition, they are not indications that a person is about to “go crazy”.
In fact, panic attacks usually peak within 10 minutes before gradually decreasing. Once the attack is relieved, the person can expect to feel nervous for a long time, but need not worry about going crazy.
You can die from a panic attack.
Many people who suffer a panic attack for the first time end up in the emergency room out of concern that they are experiencing a medical emergency.
Symptoms such as an accelerated heart rate, chest pain, excessive sweating and shortness of breath can be perceived as a frightening test that requires immediate help.
Panic attacks may have symptoms that mimic other medical conditions, but they are not considered life threatening.
In case of doubt, you should always seek medical attention.
Panic attacks can be avoided.
Many people believe that you can prevent panic attacks by avoiding the stimuli that trigger them.
For example, a person may have come to the conclusion that if fear of flying leads to panic attacks, then the person simply should not fly. However, this is false for several reasons.
First, panic disorder sufferers have panic attacks that occur unexpectedly, without environmental cause.
There is nothing they can avoid, since attacks can occur at any time. Second, a person with a phobia like the one described above may have panic attacks when faced with a particular fear, such as flying.
However, avoiding objects or situations will only increase a person’s anxiety and fear. One of the most effective ways to overcome the triggers of anxiety is to face them while trying to maintain a relaxed state.
There is little you can do to lessen your panic attacks.
Facing your fears and learning how to handle your panic attacks can be best achieved with professional help.
First, you must schedule an appointment with your doctor so that you can be evaluated to determine the mental health or medical condition that is causing your attacks.
Once the diagnosis has been made, your doctor can help you decide on a course of treatment. Common treatment options include medications and psychotherapy.
Through continuous treatment, you can control these attacks and return to your previous levels of functioning.