A panic attack is a sudden episode of extreme fear. A panic attack shares similar symptoms to anxiety, only much more intense. Panic attacks can be described as ‘false alarms’ because the intense fear mostly occurs when there is no real danger present.
Panic attacks affect the whole body. An individual experiencing a panic attack often feel a racing or pounding heart, trembling, sweating, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, chest pains and discomfort, dizziness and feeling faint, nausea, thoughts of losing control, and even the fear of dying. Panic attack symptoms can be so intense that the person experiencing them has an urge to escape and often need help from professionals such as therapists. Finding a psychologist in Melbourne can help provide more direction in terms of assessment and treatment of panic.
Panic attacks occur and intensify quickly, often in the span of minutes. The most extreme symptoms last for five to ten minutes. During a panic attack, a person feels a strong urge to escape from the current situation. Panic attacks can be recurrent and can appear very rarely or very often, depending on triggers.
Some panic attacks can be associated with certain situations, but they don’t require a specific situation- they can occur at any time of the day and during various activities and tasks. Night-time panic attacks can happen during sleep and the person waking up is frightened and in a state of panic.
Panic disorder is a condition where individual experiences frequent panic attacks and have a persistent fear of having another panic attack.
Changing behaviors and avoiding places and situations that could possibly trigger panic attacks.
Panic attacks are common, and research has shown that at least 22% of the people (worldwide) have experienced panic attacks and at least 3.5% have Panic Disorder.
If not treated, Panic Disorder can cause depression, drug or alcohol abuse, and can have a negative effect on interpersonal relationships. Panic attacks cause a series of biological, psychological, and emotional reactions.
The fight or flight response triggered by a panic attack causes an increase in heart rate, increased rate and depth of breathing, and muscle tension. These reactions can cause hyperventilation. The optimal levels of oxygen and carbon-dioxide are disrupted, and they trigger dizziness, headache, weakness, and muscle stiffness.
Catastrophic thoughts where an individual exaggerates sensations (e.g. If they feel their heart beat a bit faster they think they’re experiencing a heart attack), over-estimation of the possibility of experiencing a heart attack and the consequences of it, are some negative thoughts that can trigger a panic attack.
Avoiding certain situations where a panic attack was experienced in the past, situations that are difficult to escape from, or situations that can result in similar sensations as those in a panic attack are all behaviors that can keep panic disorder going.
Panic Disorder is relatively common and a psychologist in Melbourne will likely be able to help.