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Having a panic attack can be extremely scary if you’re not familiar with the signs and symptoms of panic attacks. Because panic attacks feel very similar to some heart-related diseases, they can be mistaken for heart attacks or strokes.
As part of our How to Spot series, we’ll be discussing how to spot panic attacks, the causes of panic attacks, and how to treat them.
Signs and symptoms of panic attacks:
- Sensing danger approaching
- Rapid, pounding heart rate and heart palpitations
- Trembling or shaking and chills
- Shortness of breath
- Hot flashes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness
Causes of panic attacks:
Because panic attacks are a psychological state, the cause of a panic attack can differ from person to person. However, these factors can play a role in causing panic attacks to manifest:
- Extreme stress
- Witnessing a traumatic event
- Certain changes in the way parts of your brain function causing an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain.
In some cases, panic attacks can also be a side effect or symptom of other health or medical conditions such as depression, bipolar, or anxiety disorder. It can also be experienced by people with chronic medical conditions such as thyroid disorder, diabetes, or heart problems.
Treatment of panic attacks:
While panic attacks can’t be avoided, they can be controlled. Learning to reduce your anxiety and deal with the problems causing your attacks can help reduce the effects of panic attacks as well as treating the symptoms caused by them. In order to find the right treatment, a person suffering from panic attacks should undergo professional therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches a person suffering from anxiety and panic attacks how to change their thoughts, understand their attacks, and learn to control them by managing fear. A therapist will provide one or all of the following treatments:
- Talk therapy to understand the cause of the attacks
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy to help a patient deal with the panic attacks once they happen and learn how to overcome them
- Mindfulness techniques
- Breathing techniques
Prevention of panic attacks:
Panic attacks are a traumatic experience and can easily lead to a panic disorder where a person becomes afraid of getting another panic attack. However, there are certain triggers that a person can avoid or other simple things that can be done to reduce or eliminate panic attacks from occurring:
- Get plenty of sleep: Insufficient sleep can make a person a lot more prone to becoming anxious.
- Exercise regularly: Physical activity can help release negative emotions and reduce anxiety as well as release happy hormones in the brain.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Avoid eating sugar and caffeine as well as the consumption of drugs and alcohol.
- Learn how to control it: Through therapy, a person can understand the symptoms of panic attacks and train the brain to deal with it.
- Avoid stressful situations: Try to relax through massages or practicing yoga.
Further reading: Rahet Bally Supports Moms With Mental Health Awareness Campaign