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Panic Attack: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Jul 31, 2023

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Causes Of Panic Attack

Symptoms Of Panic Attack

Risk Factors Of Panic Attack

Diagnosis Of Panic Attack

Treatment Of Panic Attack

Psychotherapy

Medications

Complications Of Panic Attack

Panic Attack

A panic attack is a sudden, intense period of anxiety accompanied by considerable physical symptoms, even when there is no immediate risk or clear cause. Extremely terrifying panic episodes can happen. 

Most people only have one or two panic attacks in their lifetime, and the problem normally goes away once a stressful situation is past. However, if you've had several, unplanned panic attacks and have endured lengthy intervals of persistent concern about having an attack, you may have a condition called panic disorder.

Even while they don't always endanger life, panic attacks can be incredibly frightening and have a big impact. Panic attacks frequently begin suddenly and without notice. They can happen while you're driving, in the mall, shopping, totally asleep, or in the middle of a business meeting.

Read this blog further to get a quick overview of this important topic and enhance your psychiatry preparation.


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Causes Of Panic Attack

Despite the fact that the exact cause of panic attacks or panic disorder is unknown, the following elements could be at play:

  • The disposition that is more susceptible to worry or other negative emotions due to significant anxiety
  • Genetics
  • Panic attacks can occur suddenly and without warning at first, but over time, they are frequently triggered by certain situations

According to some research, your body's typical fight-or-flight response to danger may be the cause of panic attacks. For instance, if a grizzly bear was pursuing you, your body would react immediately. 

Your body would increase your breathing and heartbeat as it prepared for a possibly catastrophic situation. The same behaviors are frequently displayed during a panic episode. However, what causes panic is uncertain.

Symptoms Of Panic Attack

When having a panic attack, several of these signs or symptoms are frequently present. Some of the following are mentioned below:

  • A sense of impending disaster or tragedy
  • A hammering, fast heartbeat
  • Fear of losing control or passing away
  • Sweating, trembling, or pain or shortness of breath in the throat
  • Stomach cramps 
  • Soreness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, faintness, or unsteadiness
  • Feeling of tingling or numbness
  • Unreality or a feeling of distance
  • One of the worst things about them is the intense fear that you'll have another panic attack. You may avoid situations where a panic attack might occur because you are so frightened of having one

The signs of panic disorder typically arise in late adolescence or early adulthood, and more women than males have them.

Risk Factors Of Panic Attack

There are a variety of things that can make it more likely for someone to experience panic attacks or panic disorder, including:

  • Family history of panic attacks
  • Significant life pressures, such as the death of a loved one, a significant illness, or an upsetting event like a sexual assault or a serious accident
  • Significant life changes, such as being divorced or having a child, smoking or drinking too much coffee, or physical or sexual abuse during infancy

Diagnosis Of Panic Attack

Your primary care doctor will determine whether you experience panic attacks, panic disorder, or other conditions with symptoms resembling panic attacks, such as thyroid or heart problems.

To help with a diagnosis, you might have the following:

  • A comprehensive physical examination
  • Blood tests are run to check for thyroid disease and other possible disorders. Heart tests, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), are also done
  • A psychiatric evaluation to talk about your symptoms, concerns, trying times, love life, potential avoidance practices, and family history
  • A questionnaire or psychological self-assessment can be completed. You can also be asked whether you use alcohol or drugs

Treatment Of Panic Attack

The severity and frequency of your panic attacks can be decreased with treatment, allowing you to lead a more normal daily life. The two primary types of medical care are psychotherapy and medication. One or both forms of treatment may be recommended, depending on your preferences, your history, and the severity of your panic disorder.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy as it is more commonly known, is one of the most effective first-line therapies for panic episodes and panic disorder. Through psychotherapy, you can get knowledge on how to manage panic attacks and panic disorders.

A form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy can help you discover this lesson for yourself. Attacks of panic are harmless. You will work with your therapist to safely and repeatedly mimic the symptoms of a panic attack. As soon as the physical signs of panic stop feeling dangerous, attacks begin to lessen. With effective treatment, you might be able to overcome situations that you've avoided because of your fear of them.

Observing results from therapy could take some time and work. You might see a reduction in panic attack symptoms within a few weeks; typically, this takes place over the course of several months. You can schedule irregular maintenance appointments to manage your panic attacks or to address relapses.

Medications

Medication can help reduce symptoms like panic attacks and depression if such things are a concern for you. The following drugs have been shown to be effective in treating the signs and symptoms of panic attacks:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Because they are often safe and carry a minimal risk of serious side effects, SSRI antidepressants are commonly suggested as the first line of treatment for panic episodes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the SSRIs sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and fluoxetine (Prozac) for the treatment of panic disorder.

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These medications fall under a separate category of antidepressants. SNRI venlafaxine (Effexor XR) has been approved by the FDA to treat panic disorder.

Benzodiazepines. The central nervous system is inhibited by these tranquilizers. The FDA has authorized clonazepam (Klonopin) and alprazolam (Xanax) as benzodiazepines for the treatment of panic disorder. 

Benzodiazepines are frequently only used short-term due to their propensity for habit formation and the development of mental or physical dependence. These medications are not appropriate for you if you have a history of alcohol or drug misuse. They could have significant adverse effects if they interact poorly with other medicines.

If one prescription isn't working well for you, your doctor can suggest switching to a different medication or mixing several medications to boost efficacy. Keep in mind that symptoms may not begin to subside for a few weeks after starting a medication.

Complications Of Panic Attack

The following are complications that are related to panic attacks:

  • The emergence of certain phobias, such as a dread of driving or emigrating
  • Avoiding social interactions
  • Issues in the office or school
  • Other psychiatric problems include depression, anxiety, and others.
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Abuse of other drugs or alcohol
  • Financial problems
  • Agoraphobia, which is the fear of being unable to leave anxious places or circumstances, may be a symptom of panic disorder in certain people

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