Panic attacks are incredibly stressful periods of intense fear and discomfort that can strike quickly and without any warning, making it very difficult to predict when they will occur. Individuals suffering from these attacks may experience nausea, chest discomfort, feelings of choking, anxiety, terror and other troubling symptoms that inhibit their ability to carry out daily responsibilities and maintain healthy relationships with family and friends. In more severe cases, panic attacks may cause afflicted individuals to avoid social situations in order to avoid attack triggers, leading to feelings of loneliness and depression. Consequently, it’s incredibly important to seek professional help as soon as possible if you or a loved one are dealing with chronic panic attacks.
Family Psychiatry of North Jersey is fully committed to providing families and individuals with all of the resources and support they need to achieve behavioral health solutions and optimal mental well-being. That’s why we offer a wide variety of therapy services for children, teens and adults, including individual and group therapy, depression and anxiety counseling, psychiatric consultation and more. In this post, we’ll be teaching you more about panic attacks and introducing you to a few proven strategies you can use to soothe them.
Understanding Panic Attacks
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “a panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes.” It also asserts that an episode must feature at least four of the following symptoms in order to be classified as a panic attack:
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feelings of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded or faint
- Chills or heat sensations
- Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
- Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
- Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
- Fear of dying
If you are frequently experiencing periods of intense fear that involve at least four of these symptoms, then you may be suffering from chronic panic attacks.
What Causes a Panic Attack?
Regrettably, mental health experts still aren’t sure what causes panic attacks and panic disorders, but there is strong evidence that factors like genetics, stress levels and natural temperament play a part.
According to Mayo Clinic, panic attacks are usually triggered by certain situations that are unique to each individual. For example, a panic attack might trigger when someone is surrounded by large crowds or loud noises. Moreover, an event can cause a panic attack regardless of whether it involves real danger or not, so even simulations or various forms of media can act as potential triggers. Here are a handful of key factors that increase your risk of developing a panic attack or panic disorder.
Mitigating the Symptoms of Panic Attacks
Working with an experienced psychiatrist is the fastest and most effective way to reduce and eliminate panic attack symptoms. Your assigned mental health expert can help you identify the primary triggers for your attacks and provide you with customized coping methods and tactics you can use to control your anxiety and fear. There are also a few general strategies you can use to manage these distressing feelings, keeping your mental well-being in good condition until you find a psychiatrist you trust and connect with.
Panic attacks trigger our “fight or flight” stress response, resulting in a faster heartbeat, shortness of breath and feelings of distress. While this state is incredibly valuable during situations that involve actual danger, it’s a liability when we’re at work or trying to enjoy our time with loved ones. Luckily, there are several relaxation techniques you can use to address this issue. For example, deep breathing (also known as diaphragmatic breathing or paced respiration) encourages full oxygen exchange, which slows down the heart and helps to stabilize blood pressure. This respiratory exercise also forces you to focus internally on your breathing rather than the events or actions that are triggering your fear or anxiety, aiding you in relaxing your mind and body.
Identify Key Triggers
Once again, it can be difficult to prepare for panic attacks considering how quickly they come on. However, if you can pinpoint the specific triggers for your attacks, then you should be able to predict when they’re likely to occur, potentially allowing you to prepare yourself beforehand or avoid the event altogether. We encourage you to keep a written record of each panic attack that affects you. Write down the context of the event and the specific symptoms you experienced. This will be an invaluable resource when attempting to pick out your triggers and educating your psychiatrist on the history of your condition.
Seek Professional Help
Psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy), is one of the most effective ways to treat panic attacks and panic disorders. This invaluable process can help you to understand the source of your panic attacks and develop coping strategies that suit your lifestyle. Depending on the severity of your condition, your psychiatrist may also make use of certain antidepressants and sedatives (like Zoloft, Paxil or Benzodiazepines) to treat your panic disorders. Regardless, you won’t have access to any of these important tools unless you seek aid from a professional psychiatrist. It may seem embarrassing to look into mental health therapy, but there’s absolutely nothing shameful about improving your life and relationships with the assistance of a mental health expert.
Manage Your Panic Attacks With Family Psychiatry of North Jersey
If you’re prepared to put an end to your panic attacks and regain control of your life, then be sure to request an appointment with Family Psychiatry of North Jersey today! Our passionate team of mental health professionals can provide you with psychotherapy, medication, support and anything else you need to understand and overcome your fear and discomfort. Last but not least, feel free to reach out to us if you have any additional questions about panic attacks, anxiety attacks or other mental health conditions. We’re always here for you.