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Panic Attacks and Panic Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

16 October, 2020 Arindam Chakraborty

Introduction

A panic attack is a medical condition in which an individual experiences bouts of intense fear followed by severe physical reactions. Panic attacks can be extremely frightening. A person experiencing a panic attack may take it for a heart attack. They may even think that they are dying while experiencing a panic attack.

Although panic attacks are not life-threatening, they can be extremely frightening and stressful, and can significantly affect the quality of life. 

Anyone can have a panic attack due to a variety of factors. However, if a person has recurrent episodes of a panic attack, then it may indicate a condition known as panic disorder.

In the Covid-19 pandemic situation, there has been an exponential increase in the number of individuals suffering from panic attacks or panic disorders. Medication can help in the management of panic disorders. These medicines can be ordered from an online medicine delivery app to maintain anonymity.

What are the Symptoms of a Panic Attack?

The episodes of panic attacks are typically sudden and occur without prior warning. Bouts of a panic attack can occur while driving a car, being asleep, at work, and so on. Many people experience a panic attack once or twice in their lifetimes, but some people experience it more frequently. Regular panic attacks can be considered as a symptom of an impending panic disorder, and people suffering from it may require medical assistance.

The duration of a panic attack varies from person to person. The symptoms of a panic attack usually peak within the first few minutes of the bout. Once the attack subsides, the person may feel extremely fatigued and worn out.

Some of the signs or symptoms of a panic attack are as follows:

  1. Sensing an immediate threat or impending death
  2. Fear of losing control
  3. Increased palpitation
  4. Profused sweating
  5. Trembling and shakes
  6. Breathlessness
  7. Chills
  8. Hot flashes
  9. Nausea
  10. Abdominal cramps
  11. Chest pain
  12. Headache
  13. Dizziness
  14. Numbness
  15. A sense detachment

Why a Person Experiences a Panic Attack? 

Why panic attacks happen and what is the cause of a panic disorder are not yet completely determined. However, some basic factors that are found to play a vital role are as follows:

  1. Genetic Inheritance: People with a family history of panic disorder are susceptible to panic attacks.
  2. Mental Stress: Stress plays an important role in the occurrence of a panic attack. People under major stress are more prone to an impending panic attack.
  3. Temperament: People who are more sensitive to stress and negative emotions are more likely to experience an episode of a panic attack.
  4. Brain Function: The brain works differently for each individual. Any imbalance in the normal functioning of the brain might cause a panic attack.
  5. Triggers: Panic attacks occur instantaneously and without prior warning. However, for people suffering from panic disorders, special events or occurrences can trigger a panic attack.

The human brain responds differently to surrounding threats and dangers to activate self-protection and self-preservation. This process is called the fight-or-flight response of the brain. However, it is unknown why a panic attack occurs when there is no imminent danger around.

How Can a Panic Disorder be Diagnosed?

People who experience panic attacks regularly must consult a physician to determine if they have a panic disorder or are suffering from any other ailment, such as heart and thyroid problems, with symptoms similar to a panic order.

To diagnose the exact condition, the consulting physician may recommend: 

  1. A complete physical exam.
  2. Laboratory tests for checking thyroid and other possible conditions.
  3. Tests on heart and brain, such as ECGECHO-cardiogram, and EKG.
  4. Psychological evaluations.

What are the Treatments Available for Treating a Panic Disorder?

Once the patient is diagnosed with a panic disorder, the consulting physician may recommend psychotherapy, medication, or both. Treatment can help in reducing the intensity and frequency of the panic attacks and improve the quality of life of a patient.

Doctors recommend the type of treatment based on individual preference, medical history, severity-level, and access to psychotherapists.

  1. Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is considered an effective method for treating panic attacks and panic disorder. Psychotherapy can help in understanding and management of the panic disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help a patient to learn, through their own experience, that panic symptoms are not dangerous.
  2. Medications: Medications can help in managing the symptoms related to panic attacks. They also help a patient recover from depression. Several types of medicines are recommended by doctors. Some of these medicines are SSRIs, SNRIs, and Benzodiazepines.
  3. Lifestyle and Home Remedies: Lifestyle changes can help with managing panic disorders. Some of the lifestyle changes are as follows: 1) adherence to the treatment plan; 2) support groups; 3) avoiding caffeine and alcohol; 4) meditation; and 5) proper sleep cycle.
  4. Alternative Medicine: Herbal products and dietary supplements can help in managing symptoms of a panic disorder. Ayurvedic medicines can be considered as they do not have any side effects. These medicines can buy from an online Ayurvedic pharmacy in India.

Conclusion

Panic attacks are instantaneous and symptoms of a panic disorder are not readily identified. There are several factors, such as family history, major stress, history of domestic violence, history of sexual abuse, smoking, and alcohol consumption, which may increase the risk of developing a panic disorder. Cognitive therapy, medications, and alternative medicines can help in the management of panic attacks and panic disorder.