I know a nurse who shared with me that she never will forget the first time that she saw a panic attack. She was a young nurse – training in the emergency room, when a lady came in the middle of a panic attack episode. Her whole wheelchair was shaking violently. She couldn’t speak. She was really traumatized. Not all episodes are this bad, of course; and fortunately there are panic attack treatments to assist people before they get to that point.
Obviously, if a person is in real danger, the fight or flight mechanism which started in the adrenals, with the release of adrenalin, will have many of the same symptoms as a panic attack. This is normal, expected and necessary to help a person out of danger. Panic attacks are seen as a problem when there is no known source for the symptoms, when they are unexpected and/or uncontrolled, and repeated for no apparent reason.
What causes a panic attack?
Although the exact causes of these attacks are unclear, the tendency to have anxiety runs in families. Some researchers state that a balance of chemicals in the brain stimulates its development. There also appears to be a connection with major life transitions such as graduating from college and entering the workplace, getting married, and having a baby. Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss can also trigger a panic attack. A panic attack can be caused by a known source of stress and fear or be unexpected.
Panic attacks can also be caused by medical conditions and other physical causes. The list below is not comprehensive. If you’re suffering from symptoms of panic, it’s important to see a doctor to rule out the following (or other) possibilities:
• Mitral valve prolapse, a minor cardiac problem that occurs when one of the heart’s valves doesn’t close correctly.
• Pheochromocytoma (neuroendocrine tumor of the medulla of the adrenal glands)
• Labyrinthitis (inner ear disturbance)
• Wilson’s Disease (an inherited disorder that causes too much copper to accumulate in your liver, brain and other vital organs)
• Vitamin B Deficiency
• Stimulant use (amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine)
• Medication withdrawal
In addition, there are triggers to having panic attacks. Some of these triggers are as follows:
• Consuming a large quantity of alcohol
• Addiction to alcohol – and abrupt cessation of the use of alcohol (after a habit of high consumption
• Imbibing a large amount of caffeinated beverages
• Addiction to cigarettes – because nicotine sometimes can cause panic attacks
• Usage of sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety medications.
• Medications to treat heart disease and asthma
• Illegal drugs such as cocaine and marijuana
• Chronic stress
• Major life stressors – getting married
• Major physical/life stressors – having a baby
• Recent surgery or anesthesia
What are the symptoms of a panic attack?
The symptoms include a sudden intensified feeling of anxiety, accompanied with alarming physical symptoms. In addition, there may be other mental symptoms such as a feeling of loss of control or dying, or detachment from yourself or reality. The symptoms often escalate within 10 minutes and most of them will be gone within 30 minutes. Some symptoms disappear completely only after an hour. It is best to consult with your physician to rule out a heart attack. A panic attack can be caused by a known source of stress and fear or be unexpected. The cause of panic disorder is not exactly known, but it is assumed that of balance of chemicals in the brain does stimulate its development.
For instance, there are common signs associated with a full-blown panic and anxiety attack. It could be one or a combination of the different prominent symptoms such as hyperventilation of shortness of breath. You may consequentially feel numbness or some sort of tingling sensations, racing heart, heart pounding or heart palpitations, chest pains and discomfort. Other related physiological manifestations are excessive and uncontrollable sweating, nausea, upset stomach, trembling or shaking, lightheadedness, fainting or dizziness, hot and cold flashes and feeling like you are choking, having a blank mind among others.
There are many symptoms that accompany a full-blown panic attack. These include having an accelerated (racing or irregulara) heart beat, hyperventilation or shortness of breath – or fast smothered breathing, chest pains and discomfort, light headedness, heavy sweating, choking sensation, nausea, upset stomach, trembling or shaking, fainting or dizziness, hot and cold flashes, numbness, and tingling sensations.
What kinds of panic attack treatments are available?
As mentioned before these attacks can be treated so that they don’t recur. There are many available approaches to treatment for this condition. However, they don’t all work for everyone. The best suggestion is to try various modalities of panic attack treatments and find out which ones work for you. It certainly is dependent also on the reason for the attacks – and your response to them.
Therapists: Therapists can help their patients to uncover the circumstances by which the attacks may have begun or from where they are stemming. With the help of an experience therapist, many patients have been able to reclaim their freedom and ability to function in society.
1. Cognitive behavioral therapy: Focuses on the thinking patterns and behaviors that are triggering and sustaining panic attacks. This approach helps you to re-focus, look your fears squarely in the eye – and deal with them realistically. (Example: Interoceptive therapy: An approach that proved successful for 87% of patients in a controlled trial which simulates the symptoms of panic to allow patients to experience them in a controlled environment).
2. Exposure therapy: is a type of behavior therapy in which the patient confronts a feared situation, object, thought, or memory. Sometimes, exposure therapy involves reliving a traumatic experience in a controlled, therapeutic environment. The goal of exposure therapy is to reduce the distress, physical or emotional, felt in certain situations. Exposure therapy may be used in dealing with anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress. During exposure therapy treatment, a therapist helps the patient remember a disturbing thought, traumatic situation, or feared object. The therapist also helps the patient deal with the unpleasant emotions or physical symptoms that may arise from this exposure. Through confronting the situations and thoughts that cause stress, patients are often able to learn coping skills, eventually reducing or even eliminating symptoms.
Prescription Medication: These can be helpful – but should be used cautiously – and not long-term. They all have side effects – which should be reviewed. To find out a complete list of the medications available to treat this condition, see your physician.
1. Antidepressants are sometimes used in the treatment of panic attacks and panic disorder. However, it takes several weeks before they begin to work, so you have to take them continuously, not just during a panic attack.
2. Benzodiazepines are anti-anxiety drugs that act very quickly (usually within 30 minutes to an hour). Taking them during a panic attack provides rapid relief of symptoms. However, benzodiazepines are highly addictive and have serious withdrawal symptoms, so they should be used with caution.
Natural cures (natural panic attack treatments):
1. Change your diet – by eating a healthy diet, avoiding stimulants such as coffee and nicotine, avoid alcohol, and drink plenty of water.
2. Exercise often: This is a great reliever of stress and can help to prevent panic attacks.
3. Relaxation techniques: One of the easiest ways to prevent a panic attack – or stop one in its tracks is to try deep breathing or guided imagery. Calm down as soon as you realize you are going to have an anxiety attack. Try taking slow, deep and cleansing breaths. This will just set you back.
4. Acupuncture: This is purported to help heal the body’s organs and assist them to restore their natural balance.
5. Acupressure: This method releases blocked energy – and relieves anxiety.
6. Herbal remedies: There are many herbs that treat anxiety which can lead to panic attacks. Some of these include catnip, green and fennel teas, Kava, St. John’s Wort, Hops, Motherwort, Passionflower, and Skullcap.
7. Meditation and yoga: These forms of de-stressing the body are also extremely helpful in slowing down breathing and relaxing.
8. Controlling negative thinking about your stressors. Stop yourself from falling into negative thinking patterns about the past, present or the future.
9. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): An Eastern medicine method (using the same principals as acupressure) may help. This is a method of working with the meridians in the body (energy channels) to first clear away the build-up of mental and physical debris that prohibits healing in the body, then tapping on the ends of these meridians to regulate the impulses flowing along them and connecting the systems and organs of the body together. Using the tips of the fingers, a tapping action is used to stimulate and unblock disruptions in the body. Mental and physcial conditions are said to be improved by this method.
The bottom line is that there are many panic attack treatments available. There is no need to feel hopeless – or helpless. Depending on the reason for the panic attacks, panic attack treatments can often be successful by applying therapies that are completely natural. There is help – and hope. Think positively – go for it!