What are Panic Attacks – Why You Get them?

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Panic attacks are a sudden onset of intense anxiety. Sometimes when you get anxious, you can feel uptight or on edge. Or you may worry about things. Panic is different. You have a surge of intense fear or physical symptoms that come on suddenly and reach peak intensity within minutes.

With a panic attack you experience four of the following symptoms. This is as defined by the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 5th edition.

1. Palpitations or a pounding or racing heart.
2. Sweating.
3. Trembling or shaking.
4. Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering.
5. Feelings of choking.
6. Chest pain or discomfort.
7. Nausea or abdominal distress.
8. Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint.
9. Chills or heat sensations.
10. Numbness or tingling sensations that we call parathesias
11. Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization
12. Fear of losing control or “going crazy.”
13. Fear of dying.

You can have other ways that you show anxiety like crying or screaming, but you would still need to have 4 of the other symptoms as well.

Panic DISORDER occurs when you have regular panic attacks and this is your main problem. You can get to where you don’t want to leave the house or be around people because you fear having a panic attack and not being able to escape. But anyone can have panic attacks or attacks of anxiety without it being the full panic disorder.

Panic attacks can be expected or unexpected. Expected is when there is an obvious trigger like needing to speak in public or waiting for a scary procedure or experience to happen. Unexpected attacks happen when you’re calm and can’t attach the anxiety to anything specific. You can even wake up from sleep in a panic attack.

Panic attacks tend to last for a brief period like several minutes, but you can remain anxious and unsettled for much longer than that.

People who are more sensitive to anxiety and the way it feels, can be more vulnerable to having panic attacks. We call this body vigilance when you are hypersensitive to every body sensation and you worry that your physical symptoms are the sign of a serious physical problem. For example, if you feel your heart beat, you don’t just think about it, you obsess that you’re on the verge of a heart attack. Or if you feel heat on your face, you’re convince you’re getting ready to have seizure.

One of the approaches to addressing panic attacks is to look at how you think about them and what you do because of them. People with anxiety and panic tend to have three kinds of distorted thoughts: catastrophizing, fortune telling and jumping to conclusions.

Catastrophizing is when you blow a situation out of proportion and focus on the worst outcome to the exclusion of lesser outcomes.

Fortune telling is predicting what will happen in the future. And Jumping to conclusions is making assumptions about the final outcome without taking everything into consideration.

Typical behaviors seen with panic attacks:
Escaping the situation.
Safety behaviors

Safety behaviors can make you feel better temporarily, but they keep the panic response going because when you do the safety behavior, you don’t get a chance to test how realistic your assumption is. And you don’t learn to manage the situation because you avoid dealing with it.

These are some of the factors behind the scenes of panic. In another video I’ll put this all together and talk about non-medication ways to address your panic.

Want to know more about mental health and self-improvement? On this channel I discuss topics such as bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorders, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), relationships and personal development/self-improvement. I upload weekly. If you don’t want to miss a video, click here to subscribe. https://goo.gl/DFfT33

Disclaimer: All of the information on this channel is for educational purposes and not intended to be specific/personal medical advice from me to you. Watching the videos or getting answers to comments/question, does not establish a doctor-patient relationship. If you have your own doctor, perhaps these videos can help prepare you for your discussion with your doctor.


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