Panic Attacks

Panic Attacks

What are Panic Attacks?

A panic attack is the sudden onset of intense fear and discomfort that quickly peaks and includes at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Anger management issues
  • accelerated heart rate, palpitations or pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or the feeling of being smothered
  • Choking
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea or abdominal pain
  • Dizziness, light-headed or feeling faint
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or dying

Although anxiety is often accompanied by physical symptoms like racing heart or stomach discomfort, a panic attack is different because of the intensity and duration of symptoms. The attack typically peaks in about 10 minutes and then subsides.

Due to the intensity of symptoms and their tendency to mimic those of physical illnesses, someone having a panic attack can often end up in the emergency room, convinced they have a life-threatening condition.

Types of Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can occur abruptly and can occur either when feeling either calm or anxious.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is used in the United States to diagnose mental health disorders. The DSM contains diagnostic criteria used by mental health professionals to classify and describe mental illness.

The DSM-5 describes two types of panic attacks: expected, or cued, and unexpected. Expected panic attacks occur when someone is provoked by certain stressors or cues. For example, someone with a fear of heights (acrophobia) is likely to have a panic attack when on a ladder or looking from the window of a high floor in a building.

On the other hand, unexpected panic attacks occur suddenly without any obvious stressor. Anxious and fearful thoughts or external triggers, such as specific phobias or a traumatic event, can bring them on. Unexpected panic attacks are the type most commonly associated with a diagnosis of panic disorder.

Having panic attacks can be a symptom of panic disorder but panic attacks can also occur in the context of other mental disorders. For example, someone with anxiety disorder might have a panic attack before giving a speech, or a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) might have a panic attack when their ritual or compulsion is prevented.

Panic attacks are extremely uncomfortable and very frightening. As a result, people who have panic attacks are often worried about having another attack. In this case, individuals may make changes to their lifestyle to avoid having another panic attacks. For example, someone may avoid behaviors like driving, or specific places such as malls.

To read more from the DSM-5 regarding panic attacks and panic attack disorder, click here

Treatment for Panic Attacks

Some people are too afraid or ashamed to their doctors or loved ones about their panic, for fear of being judged. Instead, they suffer in silence, often isolating from friends, family, and others who could be helpful. Other people living with panic attacks don't understand they have a real and highly treatable disorder.

At The Woodlands Psychiatry and Counseling, it is our hope that utilizing peers who have lived experience with panic attacks and other mental health conditions, individuals will feel more empowered to discuss their get the treatment they deserve.

Call us today(281) 383-9366 to schedule an appointment.

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