Many of us have experienced IT at least once in our lives. Sudden dizziness, rapid heartbeat, unreasonable fear and the feeling that just about – that’s all, certain death. Panic attacks are a real scourge for residents of large cities, and especially often they happen to young girls. Scientists have found that the average age of people suffering from this disease is 20-30 years.
A panic attack is a sudden attack of anxiety, which can result in fainting as well as a real hysteria. Usually it starts in moments of stress for the body – for example, when you go to the subway in the heat or find yourself in a stuffy crowd.
We talked with the doctor and found out what is a panic attack from a medical point of view, how to prevent its recurrence in the future.
How to understand what happened to you exactly panic attack
As the name suggests, the main symptom of a panic attack is a sudden and seemingly unreasonable attack of anxiety and fear. It is accompanied by unpleasant sensations: palpitations, a rush of cold sweat, trembling in the legs, chest pain, difficulty breathing and so on. Symptoms can be very different, but most importantly – they must pass without a trace in 5−20 minutes, along with a sense of fear. The diagnosis of a panic attack cannot be made solely on the basis of symptomatology: you need to make sure that the cause of the symptoms is not any other disease (for example, heart disease).
By itself, a panic attack usually does not cause any harm. Symptoms are extremely unpleasant, but rather quickly pass. The main trouble is the fear that the panic will recur: for example, for a person who has experienced a panic attack in the subway a couple of times, going down the subway again can be a big problem. Such fear is “self-fulfilling”: a person is under stress, and under the influence of stress, a panic attack develops again. In severe cases, agoraphobia can be formed – a state where almost any interaction with society causes bouts of fear and discomfort, and a person is forced to spend life locked up.
From the point of view of physiology, a panic attack is an unjustifiably sharp response of the nervous system to an external stimulus, which in reality is not at all dangerous. All its symptoms are a component of the “hit or run” defense mechanism, which works, say, when meeting a bear in the forest. In these cases, indeed, there is reason for fear, and frequent heartbeat makes it possible to run faster. However, for reasons that are not quite clear, this mechanism sometimes works “without a bear,” that is, for no apparent reason.
This unites panic attacks with vegetative-vascular dystonia, a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, which is described only in the Russian literature. Abroad, such a diagnosis is not widely used: it says nothing about the cause of the disease, describing only its mechanism.
What to do if panic attack starts
The moment panic attacks happen, there is no way to analyze the causes. But there are several ways to help you cope with the attack:
- Take a few breaths in any container. It can be a plastic cup or even a bag – just calmly breathe in it. So you can quickly stabilize the breath and cope with panic.
- Switch attention to something external. For example, count the columns at the metro station or buttons on the jacket of a passerby – any concentration on foreign objects will help you to come to your senses and again feel connected to reality.
- Stay where you are and better sit down. During a panic attack, try to limit your movements, if possible, sit down and “freeze”. This method, like the previous one, helps to focus on the world around us, and not its discomfort.
- Talk to someone. Yes, it may seem strange at first glance, but a casual passer-by to whom you will turn for help is able to help you simply with your attention. Communication with another person will give a sense of security and distract from the attack.
5 Tips for Preventing Panic Attacks
Alas, the medicine does not know why such attacks occur, therefore the methods of struggle are more general recommendations, which, however, will help you to avoid attacks in the future.
- Do not lead a sedentary lifestyle. There is a scientific assumption that the occurrence of attacks is associated with a lack of endorphins, which our body produces during physical exertion. Therefore, even light aerobic exercise and walking can make your life much easier.
- Try not to be nervous. Yes, we know that this recommendation sounds ridiculous – well, how can you not be nervous when life is so complicated? But, alas, calm and only calm will save you from panic attacks and from other ailments.
- Do not drink coffee or reduce its use. Caffeine in large quantities causes heart palpitations and can trigger a panic attack at the most unexpected moment.
- Be careful with alcohol. Alcohol, as well as any pathogens, can cause unexpected reactions of the body – including the cause of an attack.
- Be careful with medications. Analyze whether a panic attack is associated with taking a new drug? Sometimes drugs provoke attacks, so check with your doctor.
When do you really need help?
We have already found out that a one-time panic attack does not represent a particular danger, but sometimes the fear of its repetition brings you into a vicious circle. If the attacks began to happen often and you can no longer cope with this, then it is better to consult a doctor until the consequences become too serious.
In those cases when a permanent panic disorder is formed, special breathing techniques, psychotherapy and antidepressants are used. Of course, all this happens under the control of a specialist – you can’t joke with health.