By Nasrin Kapadia

B. A. Psychology

19 September 2021
Medically reviewed by
Dhanashree Padhye
MA (Psychology)
Panic Attack Disorder
Table of Contents

In stressful or dangerous situations, we are all prone to feelings of anxiety and panic. A panic attack is an intense episode of fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there’s no real danger. It’s a natural response to traumatic & threatening situations.

A panic attack is a type of anxiety disorder, and it can be very frightening. When panic attacks trigger, you might think that your heart will stop or that something terrible has happened.

Ever experienced an unexpected surge of overwhelming fear & anxiety? Explore this guide to panic attacks, including symptoms, treatment, & self-help tips.

What Is A Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a terrifying, unexpected wave of intense fear. Your heart pounds as you can’t breathe, and it feels like death or going crazy.

You may never know when a panic attack will trigger. It can often appear out of the blue without any warning. They may even hit you when you are asleep or relaxed.

Many individuals have experienced just one or two panic attacks in their lifetime, and the problem drives away after the stressful situation ends. But if a person has experienced recurrent, unexpected panic attacks & spent time in constant fear of another attack, they may develop a condition called panic disorder.

Panic attacks may even strike as a part of alternative disorders like panic disorder, social phobia, or depression. Regardless of the fact, panic attacks are curable; there are strategies you can practice to eliminate the symptoms of panic, regain your confidence & take back control of your life. (Eaton, W.W., Kessler, R.C., Wittchen, H.U. and Magee, W.J., 1994)

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Panic Disorder?

The signs and symptoms of panic attacks develop unexpectedly & reach their peak within 10 minutes. Rarely do they last for an hour, while most of them end within 20-30 minutes. You may experience panic attacks anywhere and at any time. Some of the common symptoms include:

The symptoms of panic attacks often occur without any reason. Since these attacks are unpredictable, they can significantly affect your functioning. Fear of a panic attack or recalling the one that has just occurred can result in another, more intense episode.

What Are The Causes Of Panic Attacks?

Though the exact causes of panic attacks & panic disorder are uncertain, the tendency to have panic attacks is genetic. They are also connected with significant life transitions event such as graduating, entering the workplace, getting married, or having a baby. Severe stress such as the demise of loved ones, divorce, or job loss can also trigger panic attacks.

Panic attacks can also be caused by medical conditions & physical causes. If you are experiencing the symptoms of panic attacks, it’s important to consult your healthcare physician to rule out the following possibilities:

  • Mitral valve prolapse, a minor cardiac problem
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland)
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Stimulant use (amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine)
  • Medication withdrawal

Self-Help Tips For Panic Attacks

Despite how ineffective or out of control you may feel, it’s essential to know that there are many things you could do to help yourself. Following are the self-help techniques that can make a big difference to help overcome your panic.

  • Learn about panic & anxiety
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol & caffeine
  • Learn how to control your breathing
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough restful sleep

Treatments For Panic Attacks

The most effective way of treating panic attacks, panic disorder, and agoraphobia is therapy. Even a short course of therapy can be effective.

Medications For Panic Attacks

Medications are helpful to reduce symptoms of panic disorder temporarily. However, it doesn’t treat or resolve the problem. Medicines may be beneficial in severe instances, but they should not be the only treatment to be pursued.

When combined with other treatments like lifestyle changes and therapy, medications may be the most effective treatment that addresses the underlying cause of the panic disorder. Medications may include Antidepressants & Benzodiazepines.

How To Help Someone Having A Panic Attack?

Stay calm yourself - Being calm, sympathetic & non-judgmental will help one’s panic diminish quicker.

Ask them to focus on their breathing - Find a quiet place & ask them to settle down, then guide them to take deep breaths for a few minutes.

Do something physical - If you want to release someone’s stress, then try this; Together raise and lower their arms or stamp feet. The fast-paced movement can help burn off that pent-up tension in an instant.

Encourage your loved one to seek help - Reassure your loved one that an attack is a normal and healthy response to intense stress. Try not to embarrass them about having these episodes in front of you, but instead encourage the person with an anxiety disorder to seek help for themselves right away.

The Bottom Line

The reasons for panic attacks are unclear, but it is possible that certain triggers may make you more likely to experience one. You may experience just one panic attack or may have several. However, it is a treatable condition as you can take steps instantly to ease symptoms. With therapy and medications, future panic attacks can also be prevented. It will help you recover, feel calm again in no time at all.

What's on your mind?

Start a conversation, Post with kindness.