Stress is a natural part of life. We all go through it whether we want to or not. For some, it might arise with work or relationship troubles. For others, it might be develop while working toward an important goal or experiencing a life change. While we might be used to a touch of stress in our lives, most of us are not used to the panic attacks that sometime develop as a result of that stress.
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that occurs when there’s no real danger or apparent cause. It can trigger severe physical reactions and make you think you’re losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying. Stress is one of the biggest causes of panic attacks, but they can also occur as a result of:
- Certain changes in the way your brain functions
- Major life changes
- The death or serious illness of a loved one
- Having a temperament that’s more susceptible to stress
Research shows that most of us will have one or two panic attacks in our lifetime. The symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Rapid heart beat
- Chills or hot flashes
- Chest or abdominal pain
If you or someone you know has begun experiencing panic attacks on a regular basis, it’s important to seek help immediately. In many cases these attacks can get worse without help and are often difficult to manage on your own. If a person begins experiencing panic attacks regularly, they often begin changing their lifestyle to avoid the triggers that set off their attacks. This pattern of avoidance, combined with an increased anxiety level, leads to a condition known as panic disorder. The longer a panic disorder persists, the more likely you are to develop complications, such as:
- Increased risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts
- Development of phobias, such as a fear of leaving home
- Alcohol or substance abuse
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is generally the most effective treatment for panic attacks and panic disorder. It helps the person focus on the behaviors and thinking patterns that are triggering the attacks. Exposure therapy (where the patient is exposed to the physical sensations of panic in a safe, controlled environment) is another treatment that has been very effective in treating panic disorder.
Don’t let panic attacks disrupt your life or impact your work, school, or family. For more information on panic attacks, panic disorders, or getting assistance for yourself or a loved one, contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida. They can be reached by calling 561-496-1094 or by emailing Dr. Rosen and The Center today.