Panic attack ( panic attack ) is the sudden appearance of excessive fear or anxiety for no apparent reason. This condition can last for several minutes to half an hour.
Panic attacks are characterized by rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, dizziness, muscle tension, or shaking. This condition can occur at any time, both during activity and when resting.
Panic attacks occur occasionally and usually go away on their own when the situation that triggered them is over. However, panic attacks can also occur repeatedly over a long period of time. The condition is known as panic disorder .
Causes of Panic Attacks
When a person experiences a panic attack, the brain orders the nervous system to respond by fighting or avoiding ( fight or flight ). The body will then produce chemicals, such as adrenaline , which trigger an increase in heart rate, breathing frequency, and blood flow to the muscles.
Panic attacks occur when the body prepares a response to fight or avoid even though there is no critical or dangerous situation. A person can even experience this condition in an unexpected situation, for example while watching television or falling asleep.
The exact cause of panic attacks is not yet known. However, there are factors that can increase a person's risk of experiencing this condition, including:
- Sustained stress, which causes the body to produce more stress-inducing chemicals, such as adrenaline
- Trauma or experience that makes you very depressed
- Bad anger management so more prone to stress
- A sudden change in atmosphere or experiencing sensory overload , for example entering a crowded and crowded environment
- Life problems, such as divorce or financial problems
- Genetic factors or a history of panic attacks in the family
- Certain changes in function in some parts of the brain
- Excessive consumption of caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea
- Excessive physical activity
Panic Attack Symptoms
Panic attacks usually occur suddenly and can occur in any situation. Here are some of the symptoms that accompany a panic attack:
- Excessive sweating
- Restlessness or irrational thinking
- Excessive fear
- Dry mouth
- Muscles become tense
- Shaking or shivering
- Shortness of breath
- Heart pounding
- Stomach cramps
- Chest pain
- Numbness or tingling
- Desire for BAB or BAK
- Ears ringing
- Dizziness or fainting
Panic attacks can last for 5–20 minutes, but can also occur continuously for several hours. The frequency of panic attacks depends on the severity of the condition.
After a panic attack, sufferers can experience dizziness and fatigue. This condition also leaves a fear that the attack will happen again. As a result, sufferers will avoid situations that can trigger panic attacks.
When should you go to the doctor?
Immediately seek medical help from a doctor if you experience a panic attack. Although not a dangerous condition, panic attacks are quite difficult to overcome independently and can get worse if not dealt with.
The symptoms of a panic attack can also resemble the symptoms of other conditions, such as a heart attack . Therefore, an examination is highly recommended to ensure the conditions experienced.
Panic Attack Diagnosis
To accurately diagnose and differentiate panic attacks from symptoms of other diseases, the doctor will start by asking the patient to explain in detail the symptoms experienced. After that, a thorough physical examination is done to make sure the symptoms are caused by a panic attack.
Furthermore, some supporting examinations can also be done to establish the diagnosis, namely:
- Blood tests, to check for thyroid and other medical conditions
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) , to check the condition of the heart.
If there are no organ and body function abnormalities, the doctor will perform a psychological examination in accordance with the guidelines of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This evaluation aims to distinguish between panic attacks and panic disorders.
Based on the guidelines, a panic attack is characterized by a feeling of fear and discomfort that appears suddenly, and is accompanied by four or more of the following complaints:
- Rapid heartbeat ( tachycardia )
- Tightness or a feeling of suffocation
- Chest pain
- Nausea or stomach pain
- Dizziness or fainting
- Cold or heat
- Tingling or numbness
- Feeling detached from reality (derealization)
- The fear of losing control or going crazy
- Feelings will experience death
Panic Attack Treatment
Treatment of panic attacks aims to reduce their intensity and frequency, so that the sufferer's quality of life can improve. When experiencing a panic attack, sufferers can do self-treatment to alleviate the symptoms experienced, namely by:
- Regulate breathing by inhaling and exhaling slowly
- Stamping the feet to help regulate the breathing process
- Focusing the senses, for example by eating candy or hugging a pillow
- Perform grounding techniques , that is by focusing on avoiding negative memories or thoughts, for example by counting, paying attention to the environment, or thinking about things that calm
As for medical treatment, it can be by giving drugs, psychotherapy, or a combination of both, depending on the condition and the severity of the patient's condition. Here is the explanation:
Panic attacks that only occur occasionally do not require treatment. However, if it keeps repeating until you experience a panic disorder , then the doctor will prescribe medicine to prevent it from appearing. Medicines that are prescribed are the same as medicines to deal with depression, such as:
It should be remembered that the use of medicine should not be stopped suddenly even if the patient feels that the medicine does not have any effect. Discontinuation of drug use should be under the supervision of a doctor.
The type of psychotherapy applied to overcome panic attacks is cognitive behavioral therapy . In this therapy, the patient will be guided to understand and believe that panic attacks are not dangerous.
Patients will also be taught to overcome their fear of situations that make them panic. The goal is for patients to be able to overcome panic attacks independently.
Complications of Panic Attacks
Panic attacks can be completely cured if treated immediately. On the other hand, if neglected, this condition can get worse and difficult to overcome until it affects the sufferer's quality of life.
In addition to the constant feeling of fear, complications that can arise from panic attacks include:
- Phobia or fear of something, for example fear of leaving the house
- Often suffer from health problems
- Don't want to socialize
- Problems at the office or at school
- Financial problems
- Addiction to alcoholic beverages or NAPZA
- Depression, anxiety disorder, or other mental disorders
- Desire to commit suicide
Panic Attack Prevention
There is no specific method to prevent panic attacks or disorders, other than the sufferer's self-awareness to overcome the condition before it gets worse. For this reason, sufferers are recommended to check themselves with a doctor and undergo treatment.
In addition, there are several ways to prevent panic attacks that can be done independently, namely:
- Exercise regularly, especially yoga or pilates
- Perform relaxation and breathing techniques
- Limit foods and drinks that contain high sugar
- Limit drinks that contain caffeine and alcohol
- No smoking
- Get enough sleep and rest