Panic disorder is when you have at least two panic attacks (you feel terrified and overwhelmed, even though you’re not in danger) and constantly worry and change your routine to avoid having another one. It’s a type of anxiety disorder.
A panic attack is an unexpected and sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical responses when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks may be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you have a heart attack, are losing control, or even dying. If you feel you may have a panic disorder, feel free to consult getdiazepam.
Some people have just one or two panic attacks in their lifetimes, perhaps when a stressful situation ends. But suppose you’ve had recurrent, unexpected panic attacks and spent long periods in constant fear of another attack. In that case, you may have a condition called panic disorder. Although panic attacks aren’t life-threatening, they can be frightening and significantly affect your quality of life. But treatment can be very effective.
What is a Panic attack?
A panic attack causes sudden or temporary feelings of fear and significant physical reactions in response to ordinary, nonthreatening situations. If you have a panic attack, you may sweat a lot, have difficulty breathing and feel like your heart’s racing. It may feel like you have a heart attack. Panic attacks are a significant feature of panic disorder. But they may happen alongside other conditions, such as:
- Anxiety disorder
- Mood disorder
- Psychotic disorders
- Substance use disorder
- Trauma- and stressor-related disorder
- Certain medical conditions
While panic attacks alone aren’t dangerous or harmful to your health, frequent attacks can decrease the quality of life and other everyday activities.
The Distinction between an Anxiety Attack and a Panic Attack
The primary difference is that specific stressors often trigger anxiety attacks, which may build up gradually. In contrast, panic attacks typically happen suddenly and unexpectedly.
Anxiety often causes physical symptoms, like a racing heart or knots in your stomach. However, these symptoms are generally less intense. In addition, they may last longer than a panic attack, which has very severe but brief symptoms.
Symptoms of a Panic Attack
Panic attacks typically begin unexpectedly, without any warning. They may strike at any time — when you’re driving a car, at the mall, sound asleep or in the middle of a business meeting. You may have occasional panic attacks, or they occur frequently.
Panic attacks have several variations, but symptoms usually peak within minutes. You will likely feel fatigued and worn out after your panic attack subsides.
Panic attacks typically include some of the following signs or symptoms
- Rapid, pounding heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
- Hot flashes
- Abdominal cramping
- Chest pain
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
- Numbness or tingling sensation
- A feeling of unreality or detachment
- You may feel:
- Intense terror.
- A choking or smothering sensation.
- Fear of losing control.
- Like you’re going to die.
- Derealisation (feelings of unreality) or depersonalisation (feeling detached from yourself).
An attack usually lasts 5 to 10 minutes but can stay for hours. It can feel like you can have a heart attack or a stroke. So people with panic attacks often wind up in the emergency room for evaluation.
Many people with panic disorder relay an attack to what they did when it occurred. For example, they may have misunderstood that the restaurant, elevator, or classroom caused the attack. Then they’ll avoid those places. That may lead to agoraphobia, the fear of leaving home or being in public places.
Panic attacks are very unpleasant and may be frightening. Seeing a healthcare provider is essential if you’ve had panic attack symptoms. They give you an official diagnosis and ensure there is no underlying physical cause.
How long can a panic attack last?
Panic attacks usually last 5-20 minutes. However, some people have reported attacks lasting up to an hour. One of the worst things about panic attacks is the fear that you’ll have another one. Unfortunately, you may fear having panic attacks so much that you avoid certain situations where they may occur.
When to see a doctor
If you have panic attack symptoms, seek medical help immediately. Panic attacks, while intensely uncomfortable, are not dangerous. But panic attacks are brutal to manage independently and may worsen without treatment. Panic attack symptoms can also resemble signs of other serious health problems, such as a heart attack. So, getting evaluated by your primary care provider is crucial if you aren’t sure what’s causing your symptoms.
How are panic attacks diagnosed?
The healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history. He may suggest tests to rule out medical conditions that cause similar symptoms as panic attacks, like heart disease, thyroid disease and respiratory (breathing) issues. If there’s no underlying physical cause, the healthcare provider may diagnose according to your symptoms and risk factors. For example, the doctor may diagnose panic disorder when you have repeated and unexpected panic attacks for one month or more of:
- Persistent worry about having more panic attacks or their consequences.
- Change your behaviours to avoid situations that you think can trigger an attack.
In addition, the attacks are not due to the direct effects of a substance or general medical condition. Also, they can’t be better accounted for by another mental health condition, like a phobia or PTSD.
As we’ve seen, someone with an undiagnosed panic disorder can have various symptoms. For example, you may experience physical ailments such as a rapid heartbeat and chest pain. Additionally, your emotional state may resemble anxiety and fear. However, if you identify with any typical signs of an undiagnosed panic disorder, it is essential to seek professional help from a medical doctor or Psychiatrist. Doing so can lead to more effective management of your condition and improved quality of life overall. It is also wise to be mindful of your stress level, take time out for self-care, and make sure that you get enough rest each night to ensure sufficient recovery for your emotional health. All in all, by taking preventive steps to manage your mental health holistically and seeking the proper treatment when needed, you can understand the causes of this condition and find relief from its debilitating effects.