‘’Understanding a question is half an answer’’ /Socrates/
Panic attacks are emotionally frightening situation that can often lead to despair. Unpredictable attacks of fear and anxiety, accompanied by significant physical feelings and by fear of death, loss of control or ‘confusion’, cause people suffering from panic limiting their life activities and live in constant concern and anxiety.
Panic can start suddenly, for no apparent reason, at certain places (such as an airplane); it can develop only at night.
Panic attacks last for a relatively short period of time, usually from a few minutes to an hour, but subjectively, the attacks may seem longer. They can be rare – a few times a year, or frequent – a few times a day. If the panic attacks are recurrent and frequent, this can lead to a significant, almost constant concern about their recurrence.
Strong body sensations during panic – palpitations, discomfort or pain in the chest, shortness of breath, a lump in the throat, dizziness, abdominal discomfort and other physical sensations – often lead to the need for immediate help, frighten you, and make you think of a sudden illness.
When should you think about a possible panic attack?
- Feelings of fear, anxiety and discomfort that start suddenly
- Expressed physical sensations, such as:
- discomfort or pain in chest;
- dry mouth;
- choking, shortness of breath;
- feeling dizzy, faint;
- abdominal discomfort, nausea;
- fear of dying;
- fear of losing control or “confusion”.
- Physical sensations during panic are perceived as very dangerous, as if a catastrophe occurred in the body and urgent help is needed.
Treatment of panic attacks
Psychotherapy or medication, or a combination of both, is used to treat panic.
Together with a psychotherapist, you can find ways to deal with a panic attack in each individual case, as well as reduce the occurrence of new panic attacks. People who suffer from panic attacks often live for long periods of time under conditions of high stress and emotional distress. Panic attacks can start with a significant increase in the level of stress in life – rapid changes in life, emotional loss and other situations related to anxiety and fear. Anger, grief, feelings of loneliness, or anxiety about problems in family, work, or life are feelings that cause people suffering from panic attacks to “close up”, distance themselves from others, so the problems remain unresolved, and stress and anxiety continue to increase. Feeling of helplessness and sometimes shame, fear of being misunderstood deter you from seeking help.
With a successful choice of treatment and the patient’s willingness to cooperate, panic attacks are a manageable and controllable situation in which the frequency of panic attacks can be reduced or completely eliminated. It takes time and energy, but it gives confidence in your strength, a sense of security and freedom.
1. Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry (Oxford Handbooks Series) 3rd Edition, David Semple, Roger Smyth
2. Psychodynamic Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, Fourth Edition, Glen O Gabbard
3. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Second Edition: Basics and Beyond 2nd Edition, Judith S. Beck, Aaron T. Beck