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A panic attack or a panic disorder -Complete Guide

Overview of Panic Attack

A panic attack is a sudden and intense episode of fear or discomfort that occurs without a clear trigger or out of proportion to the activity (like driving on the highway). Symptoms may include rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, chest pain, a choking sensation, and a fear or terror of losing control or dying. Panic attacks can be debilitating, causing people to avoid situations or activities they associate with panic attacks, leading to a decrease in quality of life. While the exact causes of panic attacks are not well understood, a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors may play a role. Treatment for panic attacks often includes therapy, medication, homeopathy, and lifestyle changes.

Symptoms  of panic attack 

Sudden and intense fear, terror, or physical discomfort  : The symptoms start without warning, sometimes in response to a known trigger and sometimes spontaneously. Feelings of fear are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, and feeling of losing control,  going crazy, or dying.

Rapid heartbeat or palpitations : Rapid heart beat, accelerating pulse, or irregular heartbeat are all common physical symptoms of a panic attack. They can occur along with other symptoms like sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, and feeling of losing control or going crazy. These symptoms can be intense and frightening, but they are not dangerous and usually subside within a few minutes.

Chest pain or discomfort : Chest pain or discomfort can happen during a  panic attack, and many people having a panic attack are afraid they’re having a heart attack. Chest pain during a panic attack is usually felt as a tight or heavy sensation and is not typically a sign of a heart problem. However, if you experience chest pain along with other symptoms like shortness of breath, fainting, or a sudden, crushing pain, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately as it could be a sign of a more serious condition such as a heart attack.

Shortness of breath or hyperventilation : Shortness of breath, rapid breathing, or hyperventilation is a common symptom of a panic attack. When someone is gripped by panic, they may feel like they can’t catch their breath or breathe deeply enough, which can lead to hyperventilation. This can cause lightheadedness, dizziness, and a tingling sensation in the fingers and lips. To manage shortness of breath during a panic attack, it can be helpful to slow down your breathing by focusing on slow, deep breathing or using a calming technique such as mindfulness or visualization.

Sweating, shaking, or trembling : Sweating, shaking, or trembling are common physical symptoms of a panic attack. These symptoms are the body’s response to the sudden release of stress hormones, such as adrenaline. They are not dangerous, but can be intense and frightening. To manage sweating, shaking, or trembling during a panic attack, it can be helpful to focus on slow, deep breathing, or try to relax your muscles by tensing and releasing each muscle group one at a time. Practicing stress-reducing techniques such as yoga or meditation can also help reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks. 

Choking or smothering sensation : A choking or smothering sensation, or the feeling that your throat is closing is also common during a panic attack. This sensation can be frightening, but it’s not dangerous and usually subsides within a few minutes. Focus on taking deep, slow breaths or try to distract yourself by listening to a favoite song or talking to a friend. Practicing stress-reducing techniques such as yoga or meditation can  help reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.

Nausea or abdominal distress : Nausea or abdominal distress can be another physical symptoms of a panic attack. This is usually caused by the body’s response to the sudden release of stress hormones, such as adrenaline. To manage nausea or abdominal distress during a panic attack, try using any technique to calm your body and restore balance. Focus on slow, deep breathing, relax your muscles by tensing and releasing each muscle group one at a time, or distract yourself with a game or song to help your body unwind. Drinking a glass of water or eating a small snack can also help. 

Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting : Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting can also happen during a panic attack. These symptoms can occur as a result of hyperventilation, or even without breathing difficulty. To manage dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting during a panic attack, breathe deeply and slowly and sit down with your head between your knees until the lightheadedness passes. 

Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet : Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet can also happen secondary to hyperventilation or adrenalin release. Any of the other techniques we have discussed here will help to reduce these symptoms as they calm your body and mind.  If these symptoms persist or become severe, it is important to seek medical attention as they could be a sign of a more serious condition.

A fear of losing control or dying : A fear of losing control or dying is a common psychological symptom of a panic attack. The feeling of panic or terror can be overwhelming and it can feel like they are losing control of their thoughts and emotions. This is very distressing, but it’s important to remember that panic attacks are not dangerous and cannot cause harm to your health. To manage a fear of losing control or dying during a panic attack, it can be helpful to focus on slow, deep breathing, or try to distract yourself by engaging in a calming activity like reading or listening to music. Also, reminding yourself that it is a panic attack and that the fear is groundless can help to keep you in reality and not spiraling out with your fears.

It’s important to note that panic attacks can be similar to the symptoms one might experience during a heart attack, so it’s important to seek medical attention if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and are unsure of the cause, or if they persist.

When to see a doctor if you facing panic attack  .You should see a doctor if you experience panic attacks that:
  • Interfere with daily activities, such as work, school, or personal relationships
  • Are causing significant distress or anxiety
  • Are becoming more frequent or intense over time
  • Are accompanied by other physical or mental health symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or depression
  • Prevent you from engaging in activities that you once enjoyed

Your doctor can help determine the underlying cause of your panic attacks and develop an appropriate treatment plan to help manage symptoms. Treatment may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Causes of panic attack

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of panic attacks, including:

  • Genetics: A family history of anxiety or panic disorders can increase the risk of developing panic attacks.
  • Stress: Chronic stress and the hormone imbalances that it produces can trigger panic attacks and cause them to become more frequent or intense over time.
  • Trauma: Traumatic events, such as a car accident, violence, or natural disaster, can lead to the development of panic attacks.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as heart disease or thyroid disorders, can cause panic attacks.
  • Substance abuse: Alcohol or drug abuse can trigger panic attacks and make them more frequent or intense.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as caffeine or stimulants, can cause panic attacks as a side effect.
  • Personality traits: People with certain personality traits, such as high levels of anxiety or neuroticism, may be more susceptible to panic attacks.

It is important to remember that everyone’s experience with panic attacks is unique, and the cause of panic attacks can be different from person to person. A doctor can help determine the specific cause of your panic attacks and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Risk factors for panic attacks include

Family history of anxiety or panic disorders : Having a family history of anxiety or panic disorders can increase the risk of developing these conditions. Research has shown that there is a hereditary component to anxiety and panic disorders, meaning that people with a family history of these conditions are more likely to develop them themselves. However, it is important to note that genetics is just one of several contributing factors, and that environmental and psychological factors also play a role in the development of anxiety and panic disorders.

Having a family history of anxiety or panic disorders does not mean that a person will definitely develop these conditions, but it does indicate that they may be at increased risk. People with a family history of anxiety or panic disorders should be aware of their increased risk and take steps to manage their stress and anxiety, such as practicing stress-reducing techniques such as yoga or meditation, and seeking support from a mental health professional if necessary.

Previous traumatic or stressful experiences : Previous traumatic or stressful experiences can contribute to the development of panic disorder and panic attacks. Traumatic events or stressful life experiences can increase a person’s vulnerability to anxiety and other mental health conditions. This can happen because traumatic events or stressful experiences can cause the brain to become overly sensitized to stress and anxiety, leading to an increased likelihood of developing panic disorder and panic attacks. Also, research has shown that trauma influences the way your genes express, so the results of trauma could be more vivid for a person with a genetic tendency toward anxiety or panic disorders than in a person without a similar family history.

People who have experienced trauma or significant stressors in their lives should seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional if they are struggling with anxiety or panic attacks. Treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure therapy can help people overcome anxiety or panic disorder related to traumatic or stressful experiences. Additionally, practicing stress-reducing techniques such as yoga or meditation, or engaging in physical activity can help to manage stress and reduce the risk of developing panic disorder and panic attacks.

Substance abuse or dependence : Substance abuse or dependence can contribute to the development of panic disorder and panic attacks. Substance abuse or dependence can cause changes in the brain and body that increase the risk of anxiety and other mental health conditions, including panic disorder. Additionally, substance abuse can lead to an increased sensitivity to stress and anxiety, which can trigger panic attacks.

People who struggle with substance abuse or dependence should seek help from a healthcare professional or addiction specialist. Detoxification and rehabilitation programs can help people overcome substance abuse and dependence and reduce the risk of developing panic disorder and panic attacks. Treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure therapy can also help people overcome anxiety and panic disorder. Additionally, practicing stress-reducing techniques such as yoga or meditation, or engaging in regular physical activity can help to manage stress and reduce the risk of developing panic disorder and panic attacks.

Blood sugar instability : Blood sugar that rises and falls quickly, as in hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes or diabetes, can trigger panic attacks. Fluctuations in blood sugar cause rapid hormone and chemical changes in the body and can induce mood changes and even acute panic. Many blood sugar issues can be controlled with a low glycemic index diet that focuses on veggies, healthy proteins, good fats, and high fiber while minimizing starchy or sugary foods.Blood sugar instability is a medical issue and should be assessed by a physician or your health care practitioner. It can lead to many health consequences and should be treated with all due seriousness.

Chronic medical conditions like heart disease or thyroid problems : Chronic medical conditions such as heart disease or thyroid problems can contribute to the development of panic disorder and panic attacks. These conditions induce physiological changes in the body that actually mimic panic disorders and can increase the risk of anxiety and other mental health conditions. Additionally, the physical symptoms of some chronic medical conditions can be mistaken for the symptoms of panic attacks, leading to increased anxiety and panic disorder.

People with chronic medical conditions who experience panic attacks should seek help from a healthcare professional. Treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure therapy can help people overcome anxiety and panic disorder. Additionally, treating the underlying medical condition can reduce the risk of developing panic disorder and panic attacks. If a person has a chronic medical condition, they should work closely with their doctor to manage their condition and reduce the risk of panic disorder and panic attacks.

High levels of stress or work-related stress : High levels of life and work stress can contribute to the development of panic disorder and panic attacks. Stress causes changes in the neurochemistry and hormone levels in the brain and body that increase the risk of anxiety and other mental health conditions, including panic disorder. Additionally, stress can increase sensitivity to stress and anxiety, which can trigger panic attacks.

People who experience high levels of stress or work-related stress and panic attacks should seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional. Also, taking personal steps like adopting a meditation practice, starting yoga, or engaging in activities that they find calming and balancing can help to counteract the negative effects of stress. If a person experiences work-related stress, they may also benefit from speaking with their employer or a human resources representative to see if any changes can be made to reduce their stress levels.

Poor sleep habits : Poor sleep habits can contribute to the development of panic disorder and panic attacks. Lack of sleep results in an accumulation of oxidative stress and inflammation along with changes in hormones and neurochemistry that can cause changes in the brain and body that increase the risk of anxiety and other mental health conditions, including panic disorder. 

People who experience poor sleep and panic attacks should seek help from a healthcare professional. Improving sleep habits such as sticking to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, having a higher protein meal before bed, and creating a relaxing sleep environment can help to reduce the risk of developing panic disorder and panic attacks. If a person has trouble sleeping, they may also benefit from speaking with a doctor, who can help them identify and treat any underlying sleep disorders or conditions that may be contributing to their symptoms, or prescribe sleep medication if necessary.

Depression or other mental health disorders : Depression or other mental health disorders can contribute to the development of panic disorder and panic attacks. Depression often indicates an imbalance in the neurotransmitters and that same imbalance can induce other mental health issues as well, including anxiety.

People who experience depression or other mental health disorders and panic attacks should seek help from a mental health professional. Medication and therapy can help to treat depression and other mental health disorders and reduce the risk of developing panic disorder and panic attacks. If a person has depression or another mental health disorder, they should work closely with their doctor or therapist to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all of their symptoms and reduces the risk of panic disorder and panic attacks.

Personality traits such as shyness or perfectionism : Personality traits such as shyness or perfectionism can contribute to the development of panic disorder and panic attacks. These traits can cause changes in the brain and body that increase the risk of anxiety and other mental health conditions, including panic disorder. Additionally, people with these personality traits may be more sensitive to stress and anxiety, which can trigger panic attacks. These traits are common in people with the MTHFR polymorphism, which is often also associated with anxiety disorders.

People who experience shyness or perfectionism and panic attacks should seek help from a mental health professional, or take steps in their own life to balance these tendencies and prevent the harm they can cause. Therapy can help people with these personality traits learn new coping strategies to manage stress and anxiety, and reduce the risk of panic disorder and panic attacks. If a person has shyness or perfectionism, they should work closely with their therapist to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all of their symptoms and reduces the risk of panic disorder and panic attacks.

Complications associated with panic attacks

Agoraphobia (fear of leaving home or being in public places) : Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by a fear of leaving home or being in public places. People with agoraphobia may experience panic attacks either at the thought of leaving their safe space, or when they take the first steps to leave,  and this can develop into a fear of experiencing another panic attack in the future. This fear can prevent them from leaving their homes and participating in everyday activities, leading to social isolation and decreased quality of life.

Agoraphobia is often treated with a combination of therapy and medication. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people with agoraphobia learn new coping strategies to manage their anxiety and reduce the risk of panic attacks. Exposure therapy can help people gradually confront their fears in a controlled environment, reducing their anxiety and improving their ability to function in public places. Medication such as antidepressants or beta-blockers can also help to manage symptoms of panic disorder and agoraphobia.

People with agoraphobia should seek help from a mental health professional. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the severity and consequences of agoraphobia, and improve a person’s ability to participate in everyday activities and maintain relationships with friends and family.

Substance abuse or addiction : Substance abuse or addiction can contribute to the development of panic disorder, panic attacks, and other mental health challenges. Additionally, substance abuse can increase the sensitivity of the body and brain to stress and anxiety, which can trigger panic attacks.

People who suspect they have a difficult relationship with alcohol or other substances should seek help from a mental health professional. Substance abuse treatment and therapy, or inpatient substance abuse rehab can help to treat addiction and reduce the risk of developing panic disorder and panic attacks. If a person has substance abuse or addiction, they should work closely with their doctor or therapist to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all of their symptoms and reduces the risk of panic disorder and panic attacks.

Depression and other mood disorders : Depression and other mood disorders can contribute to the development of panic disorder and panic attacks. People who experience depression or other mood disorders and panic attacks should seek help from a mental health professional. , There are many treatment options including EMDR, cognitive behavioral therapy, gestalt therapy, and other forms of counceling as well as medications that can help to regain balance. Additionally, treatment for depression and other mood disorders, such as antidepressant medication, can help to reduce the risk of developing panic disorder and panic attacks. 

Social isolation and decreased quality of life : Social isolation and decreased quality of life are common consequences of panic disorder and panic attacks. People who experience panic attacks may avoid social situations or public places out of fear of having another panic attack, leading to a limited and isolated existance. This can also lead to feelings of shame, guilt, or embarrassment, which can worsen anxiety and contribute to a cycle of panic and avoidance.

Treatment can help people with panic disorder and panic attacks overcome their fear and improve their quality of life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy can help people learn new coping strategies to manage their anxiety and reduce the risk of panic attacks. Medication such as antidepressants or beta-blockers can also help to manage symptoms of panic disorder and improve quality of life.

It is important for people with panic disorder and panic attacks to seek help from a mental health professional. With proper treatment and support, people with panic disorder can overcome their fear, improve their quality of life, and reduce the risk of developing social isolation.

Decreased work performance and decreased productivity : Decreased work performance and productivity are common consequences of panic disorder and panic attacks. People who experience panic attacks may have difficulty concentrating or may avoid work or other responsibilities out of fear of triggering another panic attack. This can lead to increased stress and financial difficulties which feeds back into the cycle of escalating stress and anxiety.

Treatment can help people with panic disorder and panic attacks overcome their fear and develop good concrete habits to improve their work performance and productivity. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy can help people learn new coping strategies to manage their anxiety and reduce the risk of panic attacks. 

It is important for people with panic disorder and panic attacks to seek help from a mental health professional. With proper treatment and support, people with panic disorder can overcome their fear, improve their work performance and productivity, and reduce the risk of developing financial difficulties.

Physical health problems caused by frequent panic attacks, such as heart problems, digestive issues, and headaches : Frequent panic attacks can lead to physical health problems such as heart problems, digestive issues, and headaches. Panic attacks can cause the body to release large amounts of stress hormones, which  increases heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. Over time, this can contribute to heart problems, such as heart disease or heart attack.

Panic attacks can also cause digestive issues such as nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. These symptoms occur because the body’s stress response affects the digestive system. Additionally, frequent panic attacks can cause tension headaches or migraines, which are caused by muscle tension and stress.

It is important for people who experience these symptoms  to seek help from both their doctor and a mental health professional. Healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise, healthy eating, and stress management techniques can help to reduce the risk of physical health problems and improve overall health and well-being.

How to prevent panic attack  . Here are some tips to prevent panic attacks:

Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques : Deep breathing and relaxation techniques can help to manage symptoms of panic and anxiety in the moment and also, when practiced regularly, help to avoid or reduce the severity of future panic and anxiety. When people experience a panic attack, they may feel short of breath, have rapid heart rate, or have muscle tension. Deep breathing and relaxation techniques can help to slow down breathing, lower heart rate, and reduce muscle tension, which can help to calm the body and reduce feelings of anxiety.

Some common deep breathing techniques include:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing: Breathing deeply from the diaphragm, rather than shallow breathing from the chest.
  • Box breathing: Breathe in for four counts, hold the breath for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and hold for another four counts.
  • Abdominal breathing: Focusing on breathing deeply into the abdominal area to help slow down breathing and reduce tension.

Relaxation techniques such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, or guided imagery can also help to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. These techniques can help to calm the mind, reduce muscle tension, and promote feelings of relaxation and peace.

It is important to practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques regularly, even when not experiencing panic or anxiety. This can help to build resilience and improve overall well-being. Additionally, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional if experiencing panic disorder or frequent panic attacks. With proper treatment, people can manage symptoms of panic disorder and reduce the risk of physical health problems.

Exercise regularly : Exercise can help to manage symptoms of panic and anxiety. Exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on mental health, including reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exercise also helps your body to naturally regulate stress hormones and mitigates stress hormone overload.

Physical activity can help to reduce stress and tension, improve mood, and boost self-esteem. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the brain that can improve mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Exercise can also help to improve sleep, which is important for overall mental health.

It is recommended to engage in regular physical activity, such as aerobic exercise, strength training, or yoga, for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. It is also important to find physical activities that are enjoyable and sustainable, as this can help to increase the chances of sticking with an exercise routine.

In addition to exercise, other lifestyle habits, such as eating a healthy diet, managing stress, and getting enough sleep, can also help to improve mental health and reduce symptoms of panic and anxiety. It is important to seek help from a mental health professional if experiencing panic disorder or frequent panic attacks. With proper treatment, people can manage symptoms of panic disorder and reduce the risk of physical health problems.

Avoid caffeine, drugs, and alcohol : Avoiding caffeine, drugs, and alcohol can help to reduce symptoms of panic and anxiety. These substances affect the nervous system and increase feelings of anxiety and stress. Caffeine, for example, is a stimulant that can increase heart rate and cause feelings of jitters and nervousness. Alcohol, on the other hand, is a central nervous system depressant that can initially reduce feelings of anxiety, but can also lead to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems with regular use.

In general, it is recommended to limit or avoid the use of substances like caffeine, drugs, and alcohol, especially if they are contributing to symptoms of anxiety or panic. Instead, people can focus on lifestyle habits that support mental health, such as eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, engaging in physical activity, and managing stress through techniques like deep breathing and relaxation.

It is important to seek help from a mental health professional if experiencing panic disorder or frequent panic attacks. With proper treatment, people can manage symptoms of panic disorder and reduce the risk of physical health problems.

Maintain a healthy diet and sleep pattern : Maintaining a healthy diet and sleep pattern can help to reduce symptoms of panic and anxiety.

Eating a balanced diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients can support overall health and well-being, including mental health. A diet that is high in whole, unprocessed foods, and low in sugar and unhealthy fats can help to regulate mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic.

Also, a diet high in starchy and sugary foods can trigger panic attacks through blood sugar flluctuations. The best diet for panic attacks is a low glycemic index diet in which foods that are higher in fiber, protein, and beneficial fats are emphasized and carbohydrate rich starchy or sugary foods are decreased.

Getting enough sleep and establishing a regular sleep routine is also important for reducing symptoms of anxiety and panic. Sleep plays a key role in regulating mood and supporting mental health. People with panic disorder and other anxiety disorders may experience sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up frequently during the night. A regular sleep routine, combined with good sleep hygiene habits, can help to improve sleep and reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic.

In addition to eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep, other lifestyle habits, such as exercise, managing stress, and avoiding substances like caffeine, drugs, and alcohol, can also help to improve mental health and reduce symptoms of panic and anxiety. It is important to seek help from a mental health professional if experiencing panic disorder or frequent panic attacks. With proper treatment, people can manage symptoms of panic disorder and reduce the risk of physical health problems.

Best diet if you have panic attack symptoms : 

A healthy diet for reducing symptoms of panic and anxiety should include:

  • Whole foods: Focus on eating unprocessed, whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods provide essential nutrients for good health and can help to regulate mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic.
  • Lean proteins: Eating lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, tofu, or legumes, can help to support healthy brain function and reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic.
  • Healthy fats: Incorporating healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, nuts, and seeds, into your diet can help to reduce inflammation and support overall health, including mental health.
  • Low-sugar: Limiting sugary and processed foods can help to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic.
  • Fiber-rich foods: Eating foods that are high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, can help to regulate digestion and reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic.

It is also important to drink plenty of water and limit the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants that can contribute to feelings of anxiety and panic.

It’s worth noting that a healthy diet may vary based on an individual’s specific health needs, so it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best diet for your individual needs.

Worst  diet if you have panic attack symptoms

A diet that is high in processed and sugary foods, caffeine, and alcohol, can worsen symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety. A diet that is low in nutrients and high in unhealthy fats, salt, and sugar can lead to inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and mood swings, which can contribute to anxiety and panic symptoms.

  • Processed foods: Processed foods are often high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt, which can contribute to symptoms of anxiety and panic.
  • High sugar: Consuming high amounts of sugar can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and panic.
  • Caffeine: Consuming large amounts of caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety and panic and disrupt sleep patterns, leading to additional symptoms of anxiety and panic.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns, increase feelings of anxiety, and contribute to symptoms of panic.
  • High salt: Consuming large amounts of salt can increase feelings of anxiety and panic, as well as contribute to high blood pressure and other health problems.

It is important to be mindful of what you are eating and to limit the consumption of these types of foods, in order to reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic. Instead, focus on eating a diet that is rich in whole foods, fiber, healthy fats, and lean proteins, and that is low in caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods.

Challenge anxious thoughts with reason and evidence : Challenging anxious thoughts involves questioning the validity and evidence for the thoughts and replacing them with more rational and balanced thoughts. Here are some steps to challenge anxious thoughts:

  • Identify the thought: Write down the anxious thought and label it as an “anxious thought”.
  • Evaluate the evidence: Look for evidence that supports and contradicts the thought. Ask yourself, “What is the evidence that this thought is true?” and “What is the evidence that this thought is not true?”
  • Replace the thought: Replace the anxious thought with a more balanced and rational thought. For example, instead of thinking “I will fail the exam and everyone will think I’m a failure”, replace it with “I have prepared well for the exam and I will do my best. If I don’t do well, it does not define me as a person.”
  • Practice: Challenge anxious thoughts regularly and practice replacing them with more rational thoughts. This will help you develop a habit of challenging and overcoming anxiety-provoking thoughts.

Challenging and changing anxious thoughts can be difficult and may take time, but with practice and patience, it can be an effective way to reduce anxiety and panic symptoms.

Avoid triggers : Avoiding triggers refers to identifying and avoiding situations, events, or objects that provoke or worsen panic or anxiety symptoms. Common triggers can include:

  • Certain people or places
  • Stressful events or deadlines
  • Overwhelming sensory stimulation
  • Substance use or abuse
  • Chronic medical conditions
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Confined spaces
  • Fear of physical symptoms or panic attacks

Avoiding triggers can be a helpful strategy for reducing panic or anxiety symptoms, but it is important to address the underlying causes of anxiety and to find alternative coping strategies. If avoiding triggers is not possible or does not fully resolve symptoms, it may be necessary to seek professional help.

Limit exposure to stressful news and events : Limiting exposure to stressful news and events can help reduce anxiety and panic symptoms. This can include:

  • Avoiding news programs or social media that may provoke stress or anxiety.
  • Limiting exposure to traumatic news stories or events.
  • Being mindful of the types of content that you consume, and avoiding those that may increase stress levels.
  • Making a conscious effort to seek out positive or uplifting news stories.
  • Taking breaks from electronic devices, such as smartphones, to reduce exposure to stressful content.

It is important to maintain informed about current events, but finding a balance between staying informed and limiting exposure to stressful content can help manage symptoms of anxiety and panic.

Seek therapy or counseling  : Seeking therapy or counseling can be an effective way to treat panic attacks and anxiety disorders. A therapist can help individuals:

  • Identify the causes of anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Develop coping strategies and relaxation techniques.
  • Challenge and reframe negative thought patterns.
  • Address co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression.
  • Provide support and encouragement throughout the recovery process.

There are several types of therapy that can be effective for treating anxiety and panic attacks, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Exposure therapy
  • Mindfulness-based therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Medication-assisted therapy

It is important to find a therapist who has experience in treating anxiety and panic disorders, and who is a good fit for the individual’s needs and preferences.

Join a support group : Joining a support group can be a helpful way to manage symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety. Support groups can provide individuals with:

  • A safe and supportive environment to share experiences and feelings.
  • A sense of community and belonging.
  • Opportunities to connect with others who understand what they are going through.
  • Encouragement and support from others who have faced similar challenges.
  • Information and resources on managing panic attacks and anxiety.

There are several types of support groups available, including:

  • In-person support groups, typically led by a trained facilitator.
  • Online support groups, which can be accessed from the comfort of home.
  • Group therapy, which combines the benefits of support groups with the guidance of a trained therapist.

Support groups can provide a valuable source of support and encouragement for individuals who are managing panic attacks and anxiety.

Use medication under doctor’s supervision  : Medication can be an effective tool in the management of panic attacks and anxiety. However, it is important to only use medication under the supervision of a doctor. The following types of medications may be prescribed for the treatment of panic attacks and anxiety:

  • Antidepressants: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders.
  • Benzodiazepines: These are fast-acting medications that can help to relieve symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Beta blockers: These medications can help to control physical symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heartbeat and shaking.
  • Anti-anxiety medications: Buspirone is a medication that is specifically used for the treatment of anxiety.

It is important to work closely with a doctor to determine the best course of treatment for panic attacks and anxiety. Medication should only be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes other techniques such as therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes.

In what ways are panic attacks diagnosed?  Panic attacks are diagnosed through:

Physical examination to rule out medical conditions :Yes, a physical examination is a crucial step in the evaluation of panic attacks. The doctor will perform a thorough evaluation to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the symptoms. This may include a complete medical history, a physical examination, and laboratory tests. The physical examination may include checking the heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing patterns, as well as listening to the heart and lungs. The doctor may also perform tests to check for conditions such as anemia, heart disease, thyroid problems, blood sugar issues, and others that can cause symptoms similar to those of panic attacks. By ruling out underlying medical conditions, the doctor can ensure that the correct diagnosis is made and the most appropriate treatment is prescribed.

Psychological evaluation to assess symptoms and personal history : psychological evaluation is an important part of the evaluation of panic attacks. The psychologist or mental health professional will assess the symptoms and personal history of the patient to determine the cause of the panic attacks and make an accurate diagnosis. This may include a detailed history of symptoms, including the frequency, intensity, and duration of panic attacks, as well as any related anxiety or depressive symptoms. The psychologist may also ask about the patient’s personal and family history, including any previous experiences with trauma or stressful events, substance abuse, and mental health disorders. The evaluation may also include a mental status examination to assess the patient’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The information gathered during the psychological evaluation will help the psychologist develop an appropriate treatment plan that addresses the underlying causes of the panic attacks and helps the patient manage their symptoms effectively.

Interview and questionnaires to determine presence of panic disorder : An interview and questionnaires are commonly used to determine the presence of panic disorder. During the interview, the doctor or mental health professional will ask questions about the symptoms and experiences related to panic attacks, including the frequency, intensity, and duration of symptoms. They may also ask about related conditions, such as anxiety or depression, and any physical symptoms.

Questionnaires are also frequently used to diagnose panic disorder. These may include standardized anxiety and mood disorder assessments, such as the Panic Disorder Severity Scale (PDSS), the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A), and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). These questionnaires help the doctor assess the severity of symptoms and also to monitor changes in symptoms over time. The results of the interview and questionnaires, combined with a physical examination and psychological evaluation, will help the doctor diagnose panic disorder and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Diagnostic criteria from DSM-5 or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) : Both the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) and the ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision) provide diagnostic criteria for panic disorder.

According to DSM-5, the diagnostic criteria for panic disorder include:

  • Recurrent unexpected panic attacks (sudden, intense, and overwhelming fear or discomfort)
  • At least one panic attack followed by persistent worry about future attacks or significant behavioral changes to avoid attacks
  • The panic attacks are not due to another medical condition, substance use, or medication

The ICD-10 criteria for panic disorder are similar, including:

  • Recurrent panic attacks
  • Persistent concern about the attacks or their consequences
  • The panic attacks are not due to another medical condition or substance use

Both the DSM-5 and ICD-10 criteria require that the symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in daily functioning. Additionally, both the DSM-5 and ICD-10 allow for the presence of agoraphobia (fear of leaving home or being in public places), which may develop as a result of panic attacks.

Rule out other mental health conditions with similar symptoms  : The doctor will also assess for other mental health conditions with similar symptoms such as anxiety disorder, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

What is the best way to manage or treat panic attacks? Panic attacks can be managed and treated through a combination of:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) : Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety and panic symptoms. CBT helps individuals understand and manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to panic attacks. 

Other types of therapy for panic disorder include exposure therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), mindfulness based therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Medications like benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and beta-blockers may also be used to treat panic disorder under doctor’s supervision. It is important to seek professional help and follow a personalized treatment plan for effective management of panic disorder.

Additionally, self-help strategies such as mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques, exercise, healthy lifestyle changes, and avoiding triggers can be beneficial in reducing panic symptoms. It is also important to address and manage any co-occurring conditions such as depression or substance abuse. The goal of treatment is to help individuals learn to manage panic symptoms, improve quality of life, and reduce the impact of panic disorder on daily functioning. Treatment may need to be adjusted over time to meet the changing needs of the individual.

It is important to work with a mental health professional to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses the specific symptoms and needs of the individual. The treatment plan may include a combination of medication, therapy, and self-help strategies. The choice of treatment will depend on the severity of symptoms, the presence of co-occurring conditions, and the individual’s preferences. A combination of medication and therapy has been shown to be effective in managing panic disorder in many individuals. However, it is important to keep in mind that treatment can take time and consistent effort, and full recovery may not be immediate. It is important to remain committed to the treatment plan and communicate with the doctor regularly to monitor progress and adjust the plan as needed.

Exposure therapy :  Exposure therapy is a type of CBT that involves gradually exposing a person to the fear or anxiety-provoking situation or object in a controlled and safe environment. The goal is to help the person confront their fear, learn to manage their anxiety, and eventually reduce it. This therapy is often used to treat phobias, PTSD, and panic disorder.

Interpersonal therapy  : Interpersonal therapy, or IPT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on improving communication and relationships with others. It can help with depression and anxiety, including panic disorder, by addressing interpersonal problems that may contribute to the symptoms.

Mindfulness-based therapies : Mindfulness based therapies such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), involve developing a non-judgmental awareness of thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. These therapies can help reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being.

Medication : Prescription medications such as antidepressants and beta-blockers : Antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are commonly used to treat panic disorder. A class of rapidly acting medications called benzodiazepines are also commonly used in acute panic attacks. Beta-blockers can help reduce physical symptoms of panic attacks, like rapid heartbeat and sweating. Medication should be prescribed and monitored by a doctor.

Lifestyle changes : Lifestyle has a tremendous impact on stress hormone levels, neurotransmitter levels, blood sugars, and many other factors that influence panic and anxiety. Changes such as regular exercise, low glycemic index diet,  and stress management techniques can help improve symptoms of panic disorder and prevent panic attacks from happening. Other helpful lifestyle changes include maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding triggers, such as substance use or exposure to stressful events.

Other helpful factors include:

  • Breathing and relaxation techniques
  • Mindfulness practices
  • Support from friends, family, and support groups
  • Self-help techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

It’s important to work with a mental health professional to determine the best treatment plan for an individual’s specific needs and circumstances.

What questions should I ask my doctor if I have panic attack 

  • Can you explain what a panic attack is and what causes it?
  • Are there any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to my panic attacks?
  • What treatment options are available for panic attacks?
  • Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to reduce the frequency or intensity of my panic attacks?
  • Is therapy or counseling recommended for managing panic attacks?
  • Are there any medications that can help with panic attacks?
  • How can I identify my triggers and avoid them in the future?
  • How can I manage panic attacks in the moment?
  • Are there any self-help techniques or resources you would recommend?
  • What should I do if my panic attacks become severe or interfere with my daily life?
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Amy Neuzil
Amy Neuzil

Dr. Amy Neuzil, N.D. is a leading expert in MTHFR and epigenetics, and she is passionate about helping people achieve optimal health and wellness for their genetic picture. She has helped thousands of people overcome health challenges using a simple, step-by-step approach that starts with where they are today. Dr. Neuzil's unique approach to wellness has helped countless people improve their energy levels, lose weight, and feel better mentally and emotionally. If you're looking for a way to feel your best, Dr. Amy Neuzil can help. Contact her today to learn more about how she can help you achieve optimal health and wellness.

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