A panic attack can confuse as well as frighten victims when they occur. These events are not just periods of high stress or fear. People who undergo such attacks experience real symptoms that have physical manifestations. Fortunately, research has developed drugs in addition to forms of therapy that can be helpful in reducing or even eliminating these symptoms.
What Does a Panic Attack Look Like?
By definition, a panic attack is the onset of a period of intense fear.
However, this is more than just an internal realization. The victim of a panic attack will display physical symptoms with his or her body.
These symptoms may include:
- tunnel vision
In some cases, victims have been known to experience actual heart palpitations brought on by this syndrome. These are not just feelings but real events, which can be detected with instruments by doctors if they are present when a panic attack begins.
Causes of Panic Attacks
Determining the causes of panic attacks is a work in progress. Many potential causes are obvious, such as when victims undergo periods of high stress.
However, such an explanation does not help researchers understand how other people undergo much more stress without suffering panic attacks or how some people can experience panic attacks with few or no visible outward causes present.
Scientists believe that, like many disorders and diseases, genetics plays a role. However, there is reason to believe that other factors may act as primary or secondary causes for panic attacks.
For example, there are certain medications that have been tied to causing these attacks. Phobias, learned behaviors such as unassertive communication and chronic illnesses may also contribute to the settings for panic attacks.
Treatment for Panic Attacks
Treatment can be broken down into three categories.
- Breathing exercises seek to help the subject preserve his or her life and safety while undergoing a panic attack.
- Various forms of psychotherapy are offered to help people confront or overcome their panic attacks in a variety of ways.
- Experience has shown that changes in diet can be effective in reducing the severity of attacks if not their frequency as well.
Breathing exercises vary in their forms and effectiveness for each individual. One exercise uses a special type of counting while the victim inhales and exhales. Focusing on breathing this way can slow the heart rate and prevent the more frightening traits of a panic attack.
Breathing into and out of a paper bag was once a popular resort for people suffering from the hyperventilation brought on by many panic attacks. However, recent studies have shown that this can actually worsen symptoms in some people.
Both cognitive and behavioral psychotherapy may be effective in treating the inclination to suffer panic attacks in some victims. When such methods are not significantly helpful, therapists may also recommend certain medications that can control outbreaks.
Effective dietary changes include the reduction or elimination of caffeine in a person’s diet. The use of certain drugs, whether they are legal or illegal, may also have to be curtailed in many cases.
While researchers continue to seek answers with regard to causes and even classification of the disorder behind panic attacks, present efforts focus on controlling outbreaks. In the meantime, tests have been developed to help therapists and doctors identify the nature of this problem when it is presented by patients.