Anxiety can strike at any time which makes people who suffer with Anxiety attacks very nervous and scared of when the next one will hit again. Can they handle it, how will they react and how severe will it be. its a feeling deep down inside that is there waiting to resurface.
Wikipedia defines Panic attacks as , “also known as anxiety attacks, are periods of intense fear or apprehension of sudden onset accompanied by at least four or more bodily or cognitive symptoms (i.e. heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, or feelings of unreality) and of variable duration from minutes to hours. Panic attacks usually begin abruptly, may reach a peak within 10 to 20 minutes, but may continue for hours in some cases. Panic attacks are not dangerous and should not cause any physical harm.”
The effects of a panic attack vary. Some, notably first-time sufferers, may call for emergency services. Many who experience a panic attack, mostly for the first time, fear they are having a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. Common psychological themes associated with panic attacks include the fears of impending death or loss of sanity; depersonalisation is relatively common.
Panic attacks are of acute onset, although acute debilitation (generally severe) may be followed by a period of residually impaired psychological functioning. Repeated panic attacks are considered a symptom of panic disorder. Screening tools such as the Panic Disorder Severity Scale can be used to detect possible cases of disorder, and suggest the need for a formal diagnostic assessment.
Long-term, predisposing causes – The onset of panic disorder usually occurs in early adulthood, although it may appear at any age. It occurs more frequently in women and often in people with above average intelligence. Various twin studies where one identical twin has an anxiety disorder have reported an incidence ranging from 31 to 88 percent of the other twin also having an anxiety disorder diagnosis. Environmental factors such as an overly cautious view of the world expressed by parents and cumulative stress over time have been found to be correlated with panic attacks.
- Biological causes – obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism, Wilson’s disease, mitral valve prolapse, pheochromocytoma, and inner ear disturbances (labyrinthitis)
- Phobias – People will often experience panic attacks as a direct result of exposure to a phobic object or situation
- Short-term triggering causes – Significant personal loss, including an emotional attachment to a romantic partner, life transitions, significant life change.
- Maintaining causes – Avoidance of panic-provoking situations or environments, anxious/negative self-talk (“what-if” thinking), mistaken beliefs (“these symptoms are harmful and/or dangerous”), withheld feelings.
- Lack of assertiveness – A growing body of evidence supports the idea that those who suffer from panic attacks engage in a passive style of communication or interactions with others. This communication style, while polite and respectful, is also characteristically un-assertive. This un-assertive way of communicating seems to contribute to panic attacks while being frequently present in people who experience them.
- Hyperventilation syndrome – Breathing from the chest may cause overbreathing, exhaling excessive carbon dioxide in relation to the amount of oxygen in one’s bloodstream. Hyperventilation syndrome can cause respiratory alkalosis and hypocapnia. This syndrome often involves prominent mouth breathing as well. This causes a cluster of symptoms including rapid heart beat, dizziness, and lightheadedness which can trigger panic attacks.
- Situationally bound panic attacks – Associating certain situations with panic attacks, due to experiencing one in that particular situation, can create a cognitive or behavioral predisposition to having panic attacks in certain situations (situationally bound panic attacks).
- Chronic and/or serious illness – Cardiac conditions that can cause sudden death such as long QT syndrome; catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia or Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome can also result in panic attacks. This is particularly difficult to manage as the anxiety relates to events that may occur such as cardiac arrest, or if an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator is in situ, the possibility of having a shock delivered. It can be difficult for someone with a cardiac condition to distinguish between symptoms of cardiac dysfunction and anxiety. In CPVT, anxiety itself can and does trigger arrythmia. Current management of panic attacks secondary to cardiac conditions appears to rely heavily on benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors However, people in this group often experience multiple and unavoidable hospitalisations; in people with these types of diagnoses, it can be difficult to differentiate between symptoms of a panic attack versus cardiac symptoms without an electrocardiogram.”
No matter what the reason if you are experiencing Panic attacks and want to get help dealing with them, contact a Brisbane Psychologist at the Centre for Human Potential.