Manage a Panic Attack



His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti. Eminem isn’t the only person who suffers from panic attacks, which can be serious and severely interfere with your daily life. In fact, nearly 5% of Australians will experience panic disorder (experiencing serious and disabling panic attacks on a regular basis) in their lifetime. This article will discuss the symptoms of panic disorder and how to best manage with the condition.

What is panic disorder?

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder and is a term used to describe recurrent and disabling panic attacks. To be diagnosed with a panic disorder, patients would experience at least one month of:

  • Recurrent and ‘out-of-the-blue’ panic attacks
  • Consistent worry about having panic attacks
  • Change of behaviour because of the fear of getting a panic attack (eg not wanting to speak in front of people because you are worried you’ll have a panic attack)

Because of these symptoms, aspects of daily life are affected (e.g. poor work performance, social withdrawal)

Often, panic disorder may be accompanied by agoraphobia, meaning a fear of unfamiliar or open environments where a quick escape might be difficult.

What are panic attacks?

These are the main feature of panic disorder, and the symptoms can be variable. Often, it can be triggered by interpersonal conflict or stress, an injury or illness, or use of some drugs (marijuana, caffeine, cocaine, MDMA/ecstasy).

 

How should I manage these symptoms?

Your first step should be to speak to your GP. They will listen to your symptoms and arrange a mental health treatment plan for you, which will arrange for other services. This may involve seeing a psychiatrist (a doctor of mental health) or a psychologist or other mental health professional. Usually, psychological treatment involving therapy with a trained professional and exercises to help deal with panic attacks are the mainstay of treatment, although some people may benefit from medication.

Why does it matter?

Panic disorders can cause a significant detriment to the sufferer’s life. Often, it can lead to difficulty with employment, home life, social life and mental health. People who suffer from panic disorder have higher rates of depression, as well as higher rates of alcohol abuse and suicidality than the general population. In addition to this, chronic panic disorder can increase the risk of heart attacks.

However, with proper management this can be improved. 85% of people with panic disorder experience improvement with proper therapy, and 65% are able to achieve ‘remission’ within 6 months.

 

References:

BeyondBlue . 2018. Panic disorder . [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/types-of-anxiety/panic-disorder. [Accessed 18 May 2018].

Medscape. 2018. Panic Disorder: Background, Etiology, Epidemiology. [ONLINE] Available at: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/287913-overview#a3. [Accessed 18 May 2018].

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