The panic attack is an abrupt access of intense fear or anxiety (affective state characterized by psychomotor restlessness, indiscriminate fear, without object) that cause worrying symptoms, but which do not threaten life: accentuated heartbeat, difficulty breathing, feelings of loss of control or imminent death. Usually, it lasts from 5 to 20 minutes and can be caused by stressful circumstances or may occur unexpectedly.
The body has a system of response to fear, which prepares the individual to cope with a situation or to avoid danger. The panic attack occurs when this system overreacts or when it is not needed. During the panic attack, the nervous system reacts as when dealing with a life-threatening situation. This response causes physical symptoms and worrying feelings.
Panic disorder is diagnosed when a person has repeated panic attacks, is worried about the possibility of a new one and avoids places that can cause an attack. It is possible for a man to have panic attacks without developing a panic disorder, these attacks appear with anxiety disorders.
The exact cause of panic disorder is not known. It is believed to be the result of an imbalance between brain chemicals (neurotransmitters).
It can also be transmitted from one generation to another (genetically). Children with parents with such disorders are 8 times more likely than others to develop the disease. Those with parents with depression or bipolar disorder are at increased risk. Nervous tension (for example, losing a relationship) can trigger symptoms of panic disorder.
There is a possibility that a man will have panic attacks without developing a panic disorder. Panic attacks can be caused by:
Panic attacks may be associated or may be caused by a certain medical condition:
The main symptom of panic attacks is the overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety along with other physical reactions. The symptoms appear suddenly, surprising and the maximum intensity lasts about 10 minutes. While most symptoms disappear within 30 minutes, others take an hour to completely disappear. It is possible for a person to have panic attacks one after another for a longer period of time and to appear as a continuous attack. If the symptoms are continuous and do not disappear within an hour, there is the possibility that there will be a panic attack and then you should consult your specialist doctor immediately.
Panic attacks can start as a result of a stressful event or no apparent cause. They may be associated with medications (such as heart disease) or with certain medical conditions (hyperthyroidism):
Panic attacks can start without a cause or can be linked to certain situations, such as a crowded restaurant or stadium. Sometimes just the thought of a particular situation can cause severe anxiety. People who have frequent panic attacks learn to avoid situations that they are afraid will trigger an attack or those from which they cannot easily escape if an attack occurs. If the pattern of avoidance and anxiety is severe, it can turn into agoraphobia (phobia of open spaces). The symptoms of panic attack may be similar to those of myocardial infarction. For this reason, many people seek emergency medical treatment. If someone has angina (chest pain) or other symptoms of myocardial infarction, they should be taken immediately to the emergency department for specific treatment.
Panic attacks are not common in children or adolescents. Children who have panic disorder or panic attacks have symptoms other than those listed above. They may be afraid of common things, such as insects or worry about monsters or going to bed alone. These children may refuse to go to school or become very upset when they break away from their parents.
Panic disorders consist of episodes of panic attacks. Not everyone who has panic attacks develops a disorder. A person is diagnosed with the disorder if he has at least two unexpected attacks plus the fear or concern that he may have others avoiding situations that could trigger them.
Panic disorders can be controlled by medication (antidepressants) and counseling (behavioral therapy). Effective treatment reduces the number and frequency of panic attacks, decreases anxiety and improves quality of life. If panic attacks have a particular causal factor (drug reaction), treatment is not necessarily required, they stop after the cause has been removed (stopping the medication with the help of the doctor). Sometimes panic attacks can continue even after the causal factor is removed and can cause panic disorder.
It consists in the continuation or change of the measures taken initially, counseling and medication. During the initial treatment, a short-term medication such as benzodiazepines may be prescribed to resolve immediate symptoms. Short-term medication will most likely stop when long-term medication occurs and the general condition improves.
The patient will continue to be monitored for other problems associated with panic disorders (depression, drug or alcohol problems). These situations will require treatment.
An important part of the maintenance treatment is the administration of medicines as prescribed. Often people who feel better after a period of time give up treatment without seeing its usefulness. Once the medication has stopped, the symptoms return, so it is important to continue the treatment plan.
Recurrent panic attacks can range from mild to severe and may continue for years, especially when agoraphobia is present. There may be long periods without panic attacks or times when they are frequent. Even after stopping treatment, the attacks appearing to be under control, they may return. It is important for a person to identify predictive signs and factors that trigger panic attacks and seek treatment as early as possible.
Treatment in case of aggravation of the disease
If the attacks become severe and continue to return, hospitalization is required until they can be controlled. Also, a short hospitalization may be necessary if the panic attack overlaps with another medical problem, such as agoraphobia and depression, because this combination is difficult to treat.
If the medication does not help, the doctor may prescribe other drugs or a combination of several drugs.
Counseling can be added to treatment. This includes behavioral therapy that focuses on modifying the pattern of thinking and behavior or masking therapy, which is a type of behavioral therapy that is based on confronting the object or situation that causes fear. If counseling does not work, more intense, more frequent or other counseling is needed. And if counseling is the only treatment, add medication.
Help for family members
When a person has a panic attack, the whole family suffers. Other members feel frustrated, tired (because they take on some responsibilities) or socially isolated because the sick person restricts family activities. Family therapy, a type of counseling that involves the whole family, can help all family members.