How To Avoid Panic Attacks If You Have A Panic Disorder
Stressful situations are inevitable in every individual’s life. It is normal to experience some stress or anxiety until the so-called crisis has passed, considering that the human body has a natural fight-or-flight response to danger. However, when a person responds with exaggerated levels of emotional and physical bodily symptoms to stress without warning, for example, before seemingly un-provocative situations such as taking an exam, meeting someone new, driving, or even walking with friends or shopping, he or she can be said to be having a panic attack.
Typical symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Being unreasonably frightened
- Having a racing or pounding heartbeat
- Sweating profusely
- Stomach cramps or nausea
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Shortness of breath or a tightening in the throat
- Inability to breathe normally
- Trembling or shaking
- Feeling a sense of impending doom
The above symptoms themselves are not life-threatening, but it is possible that they mimic those of a heart attack. Therefore, it is advisable to seek medical help if they intensify or last longer than 10 minutes. If the episodes of anxiety, stress, and intense pressure are unduly triggered over twice or thrice a month, followed by prolonged concern about recurring attacks, the person may be said to be suffering from a panic disorder.
Causes and treatment of panic disorder
The causes of an anxiety attack or panic disorder are not yet fully understood by medical and mental health experts. The condition could be linked with a combination of factors such as:
- A traumatic incident in the past or memory
- Loss of a close family member or loved one due to death or separation
- Genetic factors, that is, history of someone else in the family having the disorder
- An imbalance of certain chemical messengers called neurotransmitters in the brain
If left untreated, panic disorders could escalate into bigger health complications connected to blood pressure and heart disease. It could also lead to phobias where the person finds it difficult to get out of the house (agoraphobia) and meet new people or socialise, or it could lead to problems of alcohol and drug abuse.
It is difficult to cope with a panic attack or disorder alone, and a psychological care support group or a doctor’s advice is recommended. But the good news is that the condition is completely treatable and the symptoms preventable if it is addressed early on.
During consultation, your doctor may examine other underlying health issues you may already have, or investigate if you may be suffering from low blood pressure or heart problems. It is important to set aside any feelings of anxiety or embarrassment that you may have and share with your doctor how often you experience the symptoms of a panic attack, how intense they may be or the situations that seem to trigger your reactions.
Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may then be able to suggest medication to treat your panic disorder. Alternatively, you may be referred to a specialist such as a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist for therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, or to receive therapy to help you cope with your anxiety stimulants.
6 Tips to Avoid a Panic Attack
Here are a few suggestions to avoid panic attacks if you have a panic disorder.
- Break your busy routine into manageable chunks per day, seek help or delegate some of your work for a few days if that is possible.
- Meditate regularly, or practice mindfulness techniques to remain calm.
- Certain breathing exercises in Yoga may help to ease anxiety symptoms.
- Activities such as Pilates, Tai chi or dancing can also be helpful.
- Regular physical exercises, a workout at the gym, walking or swimming for a few minutes every week can reduce stress and promote a healthy lifestyle.
- Stop having excessively sugary or salty foods and limit your smoking habit, consumption of alcohol and caffeinated drinks that can make panic attacks worse.
A panic disorder may leave you feeling helpless and vulnerable, but it is useful to remember that often, you are not alone. Your doctor may help you with the contact information of support groups and organisations that can help you cope and recover completely.
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