With the onset of the age of information and constant barrage of stimuli around everyone who is even partially dependent on social media or even exposed to stressful environments on a regular basis, one of the problems that plagues the mankind is Panic Attack. Even though panic attacks are nothing new to us, it is increasingly becoming common and is observed among increasing number of Americans. It is however to be noted that Panic Attacks are not dangerous in isolation or sporadic occurrences and are highly treatable and nothing to be worried about. To target the onset, and the treatment, we must first understand what a Panic Attack constitutes.
What is a Panic Attack?
A Panic Attack is a sudden feeling of panic and anxiety in a very short duration of time typically lasting for not more than 10 minutes. It is characterized by some of the following:
- Shortage of breath or hyperventilation.
- Sweaty palms and foreheads.
- Feeling of constriction around the chest.
- High heart palpitations.
- Feeling dizzy, nauseated or faint.
- Trembling and shaking.
- Feeling of numbness in the forefingers and palms.
- Extreme thoughts and crazy ideas in the moment.
The occurrence of 4 or less of these events at the same time constitutes a mild panic attack. Regular occurrences of panic attacks is what constitutes a Panic Disorder (PD). It is to be noted that while panic attacks may be constitutes as a non-dangerous occurrence but a panic disorder is dangerous and immediate consultation with the doctor is advisable. A panic disorder may be associated with other forms of mental illness like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Persistive Depression Disorder (PDD) among a host of other mental illness. A panic disorder clubbed with these disorders slowly affects the personality and hinders everyday work which can be harmful in the long run, both personally and professionally.
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., that affects or 18.1% of the population every year of which only 36.9% receive supervised medical treatment. A lot of Americans brush off the panic attack as a one time event and don’t bother to consult a doctor even after repeated attacks. This is mainly due to lack of time on their hands or just plain indifference as it is considered not important enough to be consulted with a doctor.
Many a times a patient confuses the constriction of chest and sweating as a sign of a heart attack and consults the doctor immediately It is highly recommended that a patient does that so as to effectively recognise a panic attack the next time it occurs.
Are Panic Attacks Dangerous ?
Although isolated panic attacks aren’t really dangerous to our body and mind (Panic attacks is not new to humans), the situation in which it occurs can prove to be dangerous. For example, a person experiencing a panic attack while driving a car may be a hazard for himself/herself as well those around him/her. People experiencing a panic attack while crossing a busy road, in a meeting, while climbing stairs may be affected both physically and psychologically.
What triggers a Panic Attack?
While panic attacks are known to run in families, it is not always genetically imbibed. A person in a stressful environment or doing a stressful activity are largely prone to these attacks. Sometimes, even passing through the same place of the occurrence of a prior panic attack is enough to trigger another one. Panic attacks are also known to be associated with major transitions in life like getting a new job, getting fired from an existing job, getting married, having a child or the event of a close one passing away. All these events take a huge toll on us psychologically and acts as potential triggers. Apart from these practical situations, there are also some medical conditions known to trigger the symptoms of a panic attack. Some of these are:
- Mitral valve prolapse
- Stimulant use
- Prescribed medication withdrawal
It is imperative that a person who has suffered more than 1 panic attack to consult a doctor to effectively rule out these medical conditions.
How to Stop A Panic Attack Quickly ?
- Recognise that it is a panic attack and know that it will pass away in a matter of minutes.
- If you are in a dangerous place or doing a dangerous activity, pause and take yourself to a safe place where you are not a risk to yourself or to others around you.
- Try to take as many deep breaths as possible as it is known to reduce the intensity of panic attacks. Deep breathing effectively counteracts hyperventilation and is the single most effective method.
- Go to a open environment where there is sufficient air to breathe in and you are not feeling claustrophobic or constricted.
- Find one thing to focus at. It can be as simple as a tree or a lamp post or a pencil stand. This effectively reduces the stimuli that you are exposed to while experiencing a panic attack which is essential as a large number of stimuli can make you dizzy and panicked.
- If you have people around you, let them know about it so that they can take care of you while you are experiencing it like getting you some tea or even finding a good place to sit.
How to Avoid Getting Panic Attacks?
If you have already experienced a panic attack, always assume that another one will strike again and prepare for it. There are many effective ways in which you can make sure that you are not crippled when panic attacks hits again. Some of them are:
Talk, talk and talk
Talking about it is one of the most effective ways to come to terms with it and know more about it. It sets a base for your friends and family to know that you are prone to attacks and it gives them an opportunity as well to react appropriately when the time comes.
Practice deep breathing
It is already known that deep breathing helps relieve stress and anxiety. If you have already experienced a bout to Panic Attack, it is recommended that you take this activity more seriously and religiously. Deep breathing will help you relieve the the attack effectively and also make your life abundant!
The more you know about, the more effectively you will be able to deal with it when the time comes. You should be able to distinguish a panic attack from a heart attack. Also, reading articles and blogs from people who have already experienced it gives valuable insights on the conditions and effective mitigation.
Since panic attacks forms a layer of distortion between yourself and reality, doing things mindfully can really prove to be a calming experience in the event of a attack. Some of the practices that promote mindfulness are digging the feet in the ground, deep breathing and slow eating.
Engage in light exercise
A happy body houses a happy mind. Activities like running, swimming or yoga can prove to be a strong resistance to the increasing frequency of panic attacks as these activities produce a variety of hormones including dopamine which is responsible for our happiness.