1. WHAT IS A PANIC ATTACK
A spontaneous, discreet episode of intense fear that begins abruptly and last for several minutes to an hour. Many different symptoms in the body can occur including:
- Palpitations, chest pain
- Difficulty in breathing, hyperventilation
- Needles and pins in fingers, trembling
- Upset stomach, want to urinate frequently
2. WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS WITH PANIC ATTACKS?
- It is out of the blue | Because a panic attack starts suddenly, usually when we are relaxed, we cannot understand what caused it. This implies we cannot control it, and we do not know when it is going to come again.
- Fear of consequences | The symptoms of a panic attack are quite severe, so we are scared it is dangerous. The is usually a fear that it is a serious medical condition like a heart attack, a stroke or that we are going mad.
- Anticipatory anxiety | Because the panic attack is so unpleasant, we become scared that we might get another panic attack. So even in the moments when we are fine, we begin to worry about the next panic attack.
3. WHAT ABOUT CHRONIC STRESS?
If the stress is there for 6 months or longer, a Generalised Anxiety Disorder can be diagnosed. There are also other symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, and muscle pains.
4. WHAT HAPPENS IN THE BRAIN?
When the brain perceives a danger, it signals to the adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline. The adrenaline works on the heart, lungs, and muscles to enable us to fight, flee or freeze. This happens in an instant, and we do not have time to ‘choose’ what we are going to do.
5. WHAT CAN WE DO
- Medication | MedicationSSRI antidepressants (e.g. escitalopram) to treat the underlying chemical imbalanceAnxiolytics (e.g. lorazepam) and sleeping pills may be used short-term
- Psychotherapy | Discuss the options with your psychologist. A modality like CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) can be effective.
- Move | Any movement is good- whatever you like to do. Walking, dancing, soccer.
- Breath | The problem with panic attacks is hyperventilation. Try to breath slowly, and make the out breath longer.
- A panic attack are just the effects of adrenaline. It comes from your own body and cannot harm you. You will survive the panic attack!
- You cannot control or stop the panic attacks. Train yourself to become confident that you will be able to handle the panic attack when it comes.
- Practice breathing and mindfulness to calm down before the panic attack starts.
- Breath slowly, making the out- breath longer or breath in a brown paper bag.