Panic is something we all experience. It’s a natural reaction when we feel momentarily confused, frightened, or overwhelmed. But suffering from panic disorder means the same reaction can happen with no warning, at any time, in any situation through frequent panic attacks. So how can you manage them so panic disorder has less of an impact on your life?
What are panic attacks?
Panic attacks, or anxiety attacks, are a common mental health issue and can happen if you’re feeling intense emotions such as worry, stress, or fear. An attack can be scary, painful, and distressing, lasting anywhere up to 30 minutes.
During a panic attack, you might feel or experience a wide range of symptoms including:
- Pain and tightening of the chest
- Cold chills or hot flushes
- Increased heart rate or palpitations
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Sweating and shaking or trembling
These symptoms are caused by your brain reacting to the frightening or highly stressful situation you’re in and releasing large amounts of adrenaline – often known as the ‘fight or flight response’.
It’s safe to reason that most of us will experience some kind of panic attack at some point, but without the worry of further complications or suffering from them long term. But, according to national charity Anxiety UK, there were 8.2m cases of various anxiety conditions and common mental disorders in the UK in 2013, including panic disorder.
What is panic disorder?
Panic attacks and panic disorder are a symptom of anxiety, while anxiety itself can be a result of emotional events in your life. Panic attacks often arrive in response to highly stressful situations, but some people can experience attacks more frequently and for no real reason. If this is the case, you may suffer from panic disorder.
While panic attacks are often triggered by certain events or situations, panic disorder sees more attacks happening at random, without any specific or obvious triggers or causes, and with more frequency. This can develop if you’re experiencing panic attacks on a regular basis as a result of any big behavioural or life changes.
Further symptoms of panic disorder
We know anxiety is one of the body’s reactions to high-stress situations, leading to panic attacks which will include many of the symptoms listed above. But panic disorder itself can lead to even further symptoms or complications with the ability to seriously impact the way you live and your quality of life.
If you’re suffering more frequent attacks, rather than being able to relax between them, you’re actually feeling nervous or anxious about them happening again. This is known as ‘anticipatory anxiety’ and can cause you to stay in more, avoiding meeting friends or family, or even going out at all.
You might also experience increased ‘phobia avoidance’. With more frequent attacks, you might avoid going to places where a panic attack has happened before. Or avoiding places where a panic attack could happen in the future, where you might not be able to remove yourself or get the help you need.
Both of these issues can create a never-ending cycle of living ‘in fear of fear’. But in certain cases, particularly phobia avoidance, both issues could lead to agoraphobia.
While once thought to be an irrational fear of outdoor, open spaces, Agoraphobia is now believed to be a further complication of panic disorder. Rather than being limited to outdoor, open spaces, agoraphobia and panic disorder could mean you avoid any places – large or small, indoors or out – where people are around.
Causes of panic disorder
While we know what can bring on a panic attack and how it might affect you, the actual cause of them is largely unknown. However, there are obvious connections with high stress, worry, fear factors, and phobias, as well as major life changes such as marriage, divorce, death, or job loss.
But panic attacks and disorder can also be deeper medical or physical issues too. Minor heart problems, an overactive thyroid gland, or low blood sugar levels can all produce some of the more common symptoms of panic attacks, as can withdrawals from medication. If you’re suffering with any form of panic, seek advice from a doctor to get any of these medical conditions checked out.
Panic disorder treatments
Whatever level of panic disorder you’re experiencing, there’s always help available if you need it, with prescribed medication for those with severe symptoms. But there are basic self-help techniques you can use to overcome attacks, either instead of, or combined with medication.
The best thing to start you off is to learn about panic. Reading up on the subject, as well as other associated topics, will help you understand the whys and hows of panic attacks and disorder and how to cope with them in your own way.
Breathing control is another tactic to learn and use. Deep breathing can go a long way towards relieving the symptoms you can experience during a panic attack. By learning how to do it properly, you’ll be able to calm yourself down when you start to feel anxiety building. Deep relaxation techniques, including yoga and meditation, can also help.
But anxiety and panic symptoms can often build up and seem worse if you’re alone. Trying to get as much face time as you can with friends and family in different places and situations will help your resilience and coping strategies. But you’ll also build a valuable support network too, with people you trust to help if and when you need it.
Short treatments of therapy sessions with a qualified counsellor, either online or face to face, can also help you. By talking about your triggers, as well as your thinking and behaviour, you’ll get help to see things from a different perspective.
Clearfocus workplace training
As a workplace mental health and communications training provider, we’re all too aware that panic attacks and disorder can be brought on by stress and anxiety at work. This is why we provide effective workplace mental health and communications training courses for all staff and managers.
From Understanding And Overcoming Anxiety to Effective Communication training, and Effective Time Management training, each course looks at issues that can cause mental health problems in the workplace. This gives staff the confidence and knowledge they need to cope and deal with any workplace mental health issues that could lead to panic attacks or disorder.
Delivered online or in-person at a venue of your choice by our qualified and experienced trainers, each course can be tailored to the needs of your business and your attendees. For more information and to book your course, call us today on 07831 119 941 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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