You’re at work when it happens. Your heart begins to race. You begin to sweat. You’re overwhelmed with a sudden feeling of dread. Out of nowhere, you’re in terrible emotional pain, and your body feels like it is going to die.
Then suddenly, it’s over.
At this point, you might be wondering, “What was that?” Well, if you’ve been overwhelmed recently, or live with constant panic or anxiety, then you may have just experienced a panic attack.
In a world that is overworked and overscheduled, panic attacks are becoming a more common problem. But what exactly are panic attacks, and what causes them? Read on to learn more about panic attacks, how they manifest, and how to prevent them in the future.
What Causes Panic Attacks?
A panic attack is a sudden episode of fear that can result in a strong physical reaction. These reactions often occur during threatening or non-threatening situations. Though these attacks are brief (usually lasting between ten and thirty minutes), they can be overwhelming.
Common causes of panic attacks include long periods of stress, sudden changes in the environment, intense exercise, too much caffeine, hyperventilation, and physical changes after an illness.
However, it is important to note that a panic attack does not need a particular external stimulus to trigger an episode. For example, some people report having panic attacks in the middle of the night while sound asleep.
Most people will experience panic attacks once or twice in their life. This is fairly normal and not a cause for concern. In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic, about 11% of Americans experience panic attacks each, so you are certainly not alone.
However, if you are experiencing panic attacks often, this could indicate a more serious issue, such as panic disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 2.7% of Americans live with panic disorder, with women being twice as likely as men to develop the disorder.
Signs of Panic Attacks
When some people experience a panic attack, they don’t realize what is happening. Though this is most often due to not understanding panic attacks, or panic in general, some people may believe they are experiencing a different health concern. This is because there are many symptoms of panic attacks, and they often overlap with other medical issues.
Some of the most common signs of panic attacks include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Racing heart
- Chest pain
- Tense muscles
- Fear of losing control
- Overheightened sense of danger
- Irrational thinking
- Hot flushes
- Dry mouth
- Feeling detached from the current environment
As mentioned above, the symptoms of panic attacks overlap with other medical conditions, such as heart attacks or other mental and psychological issues. As such, it is best to discuss your symptoms with a medical professional to confirm that this is not something more serious.
How to Prevent and Manage Panic Attacks
Many people who experience panic attacks constantly worry about future episodes. This added worry only further hurts their mental health and increases the likelihood that they will experience a panic attack again.
Luckily, you don’t have to keep living with panic attacks. Many tools and strategies can help you get to the root of your panic and prevent more episodes from occurring.
Talk With A Professional
The most important step is to talk to a medical professional. If there is a possibility that your panic attacks might be linked to a more serious condition, then you should discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
If you know your panic attacks are linked to anxiety or stress, then talking to a therapist will help you find ways to deal with those issues.
Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself is also crucial to reducing stress and preventing panic attacks. By exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and sleeping well, you ensure that your body is at its best to deal with your daily challenges. People who take care of themselves also tend to have fewer issues with their mental health, so these activities are sure to help your anxiety or feelings of panic.
Mindfulness is quickly becoming one of the most popular tools for various mental health conditions. Taking the time to be aware of your thoughts and emotions while staying in the present moment can do wonders for your mental health. People’s anxieties and stress often come from their thoughts about the future, not from what is happening in the present.
You should also use mindfulness to question your negative thoughts and turn them into positive ones. Training yourself to be more positive is a great way to prevent any sudden feelings of anxiety or dread. Negativity is a significant factor for various mental disorders. Being positive helps keep anxiety, stress, and depression at bay, and therefore, also prevents panic attacks.
Author Bio: Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.