Your Guide to Understanding Panic Attacks

December 10, 2018

Panic attacks are more common than you think. This blog is your guide to understanding panic attacks and how to manage a panic attack. Learn symptoms and how to identify trigger points.

Everyone, at some point in their life, would have or may experience a panic attack. It is a part of the body's fight or flight response that helps it get through a harrowing situation. But in some cases, these attacks can kick in more frequently, triggered by absolutely nothing. Called a panic disorder, the patient undergoes repetitive attacks of fear and anxiety for brief amounts of time. They can come on randomly, without any warning and leave the patient feeling shaken up. In most cases, the patient cant snap out of it and could end up feeling like he is going to pass out if it doesnt come to a halt. The struggle is real and the disorder affects millions of people. Getting through the motions in life can get difficult and can be incredibly isolating. It is thus extremely necessary to identify this condition, in yourself or a closed one. However, if someone experiences a panic attack, its not necessary he/she will develop a panic disorder. Many people just have one or two attacks and never more.

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Here are a few common symptoms of a panic attack:


  • Accelerated heart rate and palpitations
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  • Trembling and shaking
  • Sweating and shortness of breath
  • Feelings of being choked
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Derealization
  • Feelings of an impending death
  • Chills or hot flushes
  • An unsettled stomach, abdominal discomfort

Generally, the fear can come on unexpectedly and hits the highest note in 10 minutes or less. It can last anywhere between a couple of minutes to half an hour. Following the attack for a month or more, many patients with panic disorder persistently fear the likelihood of having another attack. They tend to agonize over the implications of the next episode along with its consequences. Patients tend to feel like something grave is happening to them and thereby withdraw in a bid to avoid potential triggers. They can reach a point where they are so afraid that they dont want to leave the house and quit their jobs. In a lot of cases, the patient feels discouraged and mortified because he/she cant even carry out everyday routines like running errands or driving.

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Management of Panic disorder

Panic disorder can be managed with medication, psychotherapy, or both.

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-Behaviour and cognitive therapies have been found to be extremely effective. It helps educate the patient about panic attacks and disorder and how to deal with them. It aids in learning, through the patients own experience, that these symptoms arent dangerous, so they no longer feel intimidating.

-Medications can reduce the intensity of the symptoms. SSRIs are typically recommended. On a short-term basis, benzodiazepines are prescribed. They are central nervous system depressants and can be effective in reducing anxiety and distress.

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-Battling this disorder can be hard, but with proper intervention, it can be controlled. Seeing a doctorcan help you or your loved one feel better and provide the tools required to manage it efficiently in personal life and at the workplace. It is important to know that it can take several weeks to notice any improvement in symptoms so it is necessary to stay patient. Meanwhile, try and find a mentor who has been through it all and can guide you or join a support group to make the journey easier to cover.

Article by Dr. Naveen Nadipelli, MBBS, DPM (Psychiatry),
Consultant Psychiatrist, CallHealth

Have a Question? Consult Dr. Naveen Online.


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