Updated: Feb 10, 2021
When people have anxiety they may experience panic attacks as a heightened response to stress inducing situations. Panic attacks can also be onset by a number of psychological, pharmacological, and environmental factors including alcohol, drugs, bereavement and even a break up.
Panic attacks can be intense and can occur quickly with no trigger. However, they are unlikely to cause physical harm and can be treated with medication and psychotherapy. That being said, panic attacks can be caused by anxiety, fear, or a person having a panic disorder.
Panic disorders are classified as an anxiety disorder. This is due to both disorders experiencing panic attacks of similar symptomology such as increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and chest pain. However to be diagnosed with a panic disorder the feelings of having a panic attack must be regular and unexpected (DSM-5). The person must also experience an increased worry, concern, or change in behaviour about having further attacks for at least a month after the attack.
There are various causes of panic disorders, but research has found that women are twice as likely to develop the disorder compared to men. Also, symptoms tend to begin appearing in teens and young adults under the age of 25. Having a panic disorder also increases the risk of developing other mental health conditions such as agoraphobia, which will be discussed in the next 3LB blog post.
Panic disorders tend to be a long-term condition which can be challenging to treat but treatment aims to ease symptoms and reduce the number of panic attacks. It is important to seek advice from your GP and get a formal diagnosis if you experience symptoms of a panic disorder as they can provide medicine and psychological therapies including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Panic disorders are impossible to prevent, but at 3LB we still want to provide some ways to cope with panic attacks which may reduce symptoms.
Coping with panic attacks:
The most effective way of coping with a panic disorder is by taking control of the panic attacks, to calm your body and mind.
Learn slow-breathing techniques which can be used during an attack to reduce the feelings
Organise your thoughts and favour positivity (easier said than done, but try and envisage a cat sneezing or your grandparent smiling)
Remind yourself that you are in control. It may feel like you are not but facing feared situations can help you manage your experience
Practice muscle relaxation techniques to lower tension (from your toes to your knees, fingers, shoulders, and forehead, relax your muscles one by one)
Create coping cards to carry or a photo album on your phone which includes calming but realistic content
How to reduce symptoms:
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and illicit drugs
Confide in friends and family when life is seeming stressful
Improve wellbeing by getting enough sleep and exercise regularly
Try using essential oils such as eucalyptus and lavender, which can be added to a bath, oil diffuser or applied to your skin. Eucalyptus encourages a better flow of oxygen to your lungs and lavender fosters relaxation
Adopt calming activities such as yoga, pilates and meditation
The affects of the covid-19 pandemic on people with panic disorders & anxiety
The year 2020 marks the year that started a global pandemic in the first quarter, that caused families and their loved ones to face numerous difficulties in their everyday life.