Understanding anxiety and panic attacks
In my last post I talked about how you can recognize the signs and symptoms of anxiety attacks. In this post I´m going to talk about panic attacks and the symptoms that come along with them. I will also discuss panic disorder and agoraphobia.
As I discussed in my last post anxiety has signs and symptoms that can be identified and managed once you know what they are.
While anxiety and panic attacks do have similar symptoms there are differences that you should be aware of. For instance a panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear and anxiety that usually occurs without any clear reason and without warning.
Most of the time these attacks are a onetime occurrence, but some people experience recurring episodes. Recurring episodes are often caused by a trigger, like speaking in front of a crowd or doing a presentation at work.
Panic attacks may also be a part of another disorder such as depression, panic disorder, or social phobia. These disorders are generally harmless, but people who suffer with them still feel as if their life is out of control.
As with anxiety attacks, panic attacks are manageable once you understand the signs and symptoms. A panic attack can happen anytime, but it usually happens when you are away from home. You may be at a store shopping, at work preparing for a presentation, in a class, driving, walking down the street or even during sleep.
The signs and symptoms develop quickly and usually reach their peak in about 10 minutes. The majority of panic attacks don’t last for more than 30 minutes and rarely last for more than an hour.
Just like with an anxiety attack, a person having a panic attack will exhibit these signs and symptoms:
– Increased heartbeat or palpitation
– Chest pain
– Hyperventilation or shortness of breath
– Stomach churning, upset stomach
– Trembling and shaking
– Muscle tension
– Dizziness and light-headedness
– Hot or cold flashes
– Tingling sensation or numbness
– Fear of dying, going crazy or losing control
– Feeling detached from the surroundings
Now let’s talk about panic disorder
While most people only experience a panic attack once or twice in their lifetime with no complications or lasting effects and if you should happen to have more than that there is no reason that you should be overly concerned.
However, if you have experienced several episodes short period of time then you may be at risk of developing a panic disorder.
Recurring panic attacks together with persistent anxiety for future attacks and major changes in behavior may be thought of as panic disorder.
There are two main symptoms of panic disorder:
1 – Phobic avoidance
2 – Anticipatory anxiety
When you begin to avoid certain things or situations based on the belief that it will trigger another attack. It can also be avoiding situations that have caused a previous attack. You may also avoid places or situations where escape is difficult and help is unavailable, like be on a airplane or riding an elevator.
Extreme cases of phobic avoidance are a disorder called agoraphobia. Which is the fear of being in any situation where you might experience an anxiety or panic attack.
The “fear of fear” or the fear of having future panic attacks. A person manifesting this symptom is usually extremely tense and over anxious. When neglected, this condition are often disabling.
Then there’s the combination of anxiety disorder with agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia is traditionally believed a fear of open places or public places, it literally suggests that “fear of the marketplace” However, currently it’s believed that agoraphobia is worry of
experiencing fear in a place where assistance is difficult or where escape would be tough.
People with agoraphobia tend to avoid the following things or
– Being away from home
– Confined places where there’s a chance of being trapped (elevator, theaters, public transportation, stores)
– Going out with “unsafe” person or somebody he or she is not comfortable being with.
– Places wherever it might be embarrassing to have a panic attack like parties and different social gatherings.
In severe cases, individuals with agoraphobia typically see their home as the only safe place.
People diagnosed with agoraphobia show totally different symptoms. But common to any or all agoraphobics is avoidance either being in public places or being alone. this is actually a character of phobic avoidance.
The difference is that the effects of agoraphobia will considerably limit the person’s traditional activities. What sets agoraphobia apart from panic disorder is that the quantity of activities that the person avoids.
People with panic disorder keep usually active, though there are specific situations that they have a tendency to avoid. On the other hand, agoraphobics limit their activities as a result of fearful thoughts. These fearful thoughts can be very damaging to a person’s life as well as relationships with others.
Either way, both conditions are the result of panic attacks.