Thank you so much for sending prayers, positive thoughts, and vibes Saturday morning. I took the GRE, and I got the score I wanted in my verbal, however, I can still use help in the math! But I did go up about 15-20 points from all the practice tests. So that is good!
Why am I so afraid?
Am I going to die?
My heart… I’m having a heart attack.
I can’t breathe.
Someone help me.
Okay, so panic attacks fall under panic disorder. Panic disorder just means that you have panic attacks that often come out of nowhere. To have panic disorder the panic attacks must blindside you with no really reason.
Some people have panic attacks in their sleep (nocturnal panic). Nocturnal panic attacks occur about 20 to 40 percent of the time to those who suffer from panic disorder. These can lead to insomnia. I mean really, if you are constantly having panic attacks while sleeping, the brain starts to associate sleep with fear. Here’s the thing, nocturnal panic attacks have nothing to do with nightmares. Research shows that dreams and nightmares occur in stage one of sleep, most panic attacks occur in stage two and early stage three. Most panic attacks usually occur in the day time.
Criteria for panic disorder and therefore panic attacks are:
- Abrupt panic attack and intense fear that usually has at least 4 of the 13 symptoms:
- Pounding heart and accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath: being so scared you can’t breathe
- Feelings of chocking: you want to scream but you can’t
- Chest pain, pressure, and discomfort: most people think they are having a heart attack
- Nausea or abdominal distress: some people throw up
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or the person faints
- Really cold or really hot
- Numbness or tingling sensations in parts of the body
- Derealization or feeling like nothing is reality
- Depersonalization: being detached from oneself this often referred as Catatonia which is simply starting into space and not moving
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
- People with panic attacks also need to have at least one month of:
- Constant worry of another panic attack
- Maladaptive behavior and significant changes in lifestyle to avoid another panic attack
- The physiological symptoms should not be caused due to drugs or actual heart or breathing problems
- The psychological symptoms should not be caused due to other mental illnesses such as PTSD, OCD, social anxiety or phobias (I’ll make a post of each one of these later on in the year.)
So in my last post Crucio Curse, Volturi Attack, Migraines, and other Extreme Sports, I joked that middle life (around the age of 40-50) people tend to have panic attacks (midlife crisis), however, panic disorder occurs in about 24 million people and that is just in America. They often start around the teenage years or early adulthood, and women are twice more likely to have panic attacks then men.
Although the exact cause of panic disorder is not fully understood, studies have shown that a combination of factors, including biological and environmental, may be involved.
Family history. Panic disorder has been shown to sometimes run in families. Most illnesses are partly genetic and this includes mental illness.
Abnormalities in the brain. Panic disorder may be caused by problems in regulating brain areas that control the “fight, flight, or freeze” response.
Major life stress. Stressful events and major life transitions, such as the death of a loved one, can sometimes trigger panic attacks, which can potentially recur and go on to become panic disorder.
So is there any hope for those of us suffering from panic disorder and panic attacks?
Panic disorder and panic attacks aren’t usually cured, but there are combinations of therapies that are often used to treat panic disorder.
Psychotherapy: addresses the emotional response to mental illness.
Cognitive behavioral therapy: A type of psychotherapy that helps a person learn to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings. Therapy also aims to identify possibly triggers for panic attacks.
Medication: There are several anti-depressant medications used to treat panic disorder. These are generally selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) such as Paxil and Zoloft. Anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, Ativan, or Klonopin are also used to treat panic disorder.
Some people will respond well to treatment but experience panic attacks later in life. When panic attacks continue after treatment has stopped, additional treatment may still help control and reduce panic attacks for them:
Relaxation techniques: such as breathing retraining and positive visualization, may help a person during an attack.
We are not a lost cause. Before judgment is placed think about how awful it must feel to be eating lunch and suddenly you feel so afraid that you can’t breathe, you can’t scream, and your heart is really to pop out of your chest. It’s an awful feeling.
Or imagine sitting down and doing your homework then you realize that you have done nothing for three hours but stare into space as thoughts of death and worry race in your mind.
Some people get mad at those of us with panic attacks for not being able to explain to them what is happening to us.
Don’t assume someone is weak because they have panic attacks, you don’t know the amount of strength it takes to make it through the day in constant worry of having a panic attack.