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Panic attacks involve feelings of intense anxiety that manifest themselves in physical and emotional stress. A panic attack may appear suddenly, without warning or provocation, even during sleep.
Physical symptoms include rapid heartbeat, tightness in the chest and back, labored breathing, dizziness, and possible nausea. Because these are also among the symptoms of a heart attack, the victim may experience further anxiety, which causes the symptoms to become worse.
The random nature of panic attacks also increases the anxiety and even the frequency of panic attacks, as the victim fears experiencing the feeling of intense dread and physical discomfort.
Fortunately, there are ways, both behavioral and chemical, to treat panic attack disorders.
What causes panic attacks?
Panic attacks are initiated by the "flight or fight" reaction built into humans' biochemistry, which allows adrenaline to be released into their bodies. This causes a temporary increase in reaction time and muscle speed and strength, which gives the individual a greater chance of surviving an encounter with a predator or an enemy.
Fear and stress are now caused by less physical and direct threats for most individuals, yet the physical and chemical reaction remains.The causes of panic attacks are unique for each individual. Some possible triggers include:
Some victims suffer from a general anxiety disorder, in which they are mildly to severely anxious much of the time, and panic attacks are triggered by stressors that would seem relatively mild to those who don't suffer from the disorder.
Some victims suffer from a chemical imbalance in the brain, which may be hereditary and ongoing, or appear spontaneously for reasons that are not always apparent.
While technological advances have freed individuals from direct physical dangers, stress is still present in most people's lives, as they attempt to accomplish more things in less time. Caffeine and other stimulants can be also used excessively, as individuals attempt to keep pace with their frenetic lifestyle, which could contribute to anxiety.
How can panic attacks be treated?
A victim must first determine if there are any physical conditions that are present. A thorough physical examination can eliminate the possibility of heart disease or other physical causes.
Anxiety medication can be prescribed for a spontaneous emergence of panic attacks, which can help if a chemical imbalance is suspected and the victim doesn't regularly suffer from a anxiety disorder.
Behavioral and lifestyle changes can be adopted with the help of mental health treatment. A mental health counselor, such as Dr. Stephen Brown & Associates, will assist a victim of panic attacks in examining the triggers that initiate the events and help them to adopt lifestyle changes to avoid or minimize attacks.
Behavioral therapy can also be useful in helping victims to minimize the crippling fear of future attacks, which are often self-fulfilling, because these attacks are based on physical reaction to fear or perceived danger. Calming techniques may be introduced to control breathing and heart rate for some individuals.
Mental health treatment will vary for each individual, depending upon the severity and frequency of the attacks.