What are panic attacks?

Indonesia Expat - - SNA MEDIA CLUB COLUMN - Dr Steven Graaff, MD, MRCGP, the founder of Good Prac­tice Clinic is a grad­u­ate of the Vrije Univer­siteit Am­s­ter­dam. Be­fore com­plet­ing his for­mal train­ing in Gen­eral Prac­tice in the UK, he has worked in sev­eral hos­pi­tals, oc­cu­pa­tional health and gen­eral pr

I dis­cussed stress pre­vi­ously. Stress can cause panic. Some peo­ple have panic attacks, but they are not aware that they are panic attacks. They can feel very un­com­fort­able and some peo­ple fear that they have a se­ri­ous con­di­tion. A panic at­tack is a feel­ing of in­tense anx­i­ety with phys­i­cal symp­toms. They can be very fright­en­ing and they can hap­pen for no clear rea­son.

Symp­toms of a panic at­tack

• a rac­ing heart beat

• trem­bling

• short­ness of breath (hy­per­ven­ti­la­tion)

• a feel­ing of chok­ing

• nau­sea

• dizzi­ness

• tin­gling in arms or fin­gers

• ring­ing in your ears

Some peo­ple feel pain in their chest and they can think they are hav­ing a heart at­tack be­cause it feels like their heart is rac­ing or beat­ing ir­reg­u­larly. Some peo­ple think that they are go­ing to die.

Panic attacks usu­ally last about 5 to 20 min­utes. They are not dan­ger­ous and the panic attacks shouldn’t harm you.

Causes of panic attacks

The phys­i­cal symp­toms of a panic at­tack are caused by hor­mones re­leased due to stress or panic.

The body is try­ing to take in more oxy­gen and your breath­ing be­comes quicker. Your body also re­leases hor­mones, such as adren­a­line, which make your heart beat faster and your mus­cles tense up.

Should you see your GP about panic attacks?

Some peo­ple think they will col­lapse or even die when they have a panic at­tack. The at­tack is usu­ally harm­less. You may need to see your trusted med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner to rule out an un­der­ly­ing phys­i­cal cause.

See your doc­tor if:

• Your panic at­tack con­tin­ues af­ter you tried breath­ing slowly for about 20 min­utes.

• You con­tinue to feel un­well af­ter your breath­ing re­turns to nor­mal.

• You still have a fast or ir­reg­u­lar heart­beat or pain in your chest af­ter your panic at­tack.

• You have panic attacks reg­u­larly. This could mean that you have a panic dis­or­der.

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How to pre­vent panic attacks

Try to fig­ure out what you find stress­ful and what is mak­ing your symp­toms worse. It is im­por­tant to con­tinue your daily ac­tiv­i­ties.

• Do breath­ing ex­er­cises! This will help to pre­vent panic attacks and they can also give re­lieve when they are hap­pen­ing.

• Ex­er­cise, es­pe­cially aer­o­bic ex­er­cise, this can help you to lower stress lev­els and re­lease ten­sion, It can also im­prove your mood and boost your con­fi­dence.

• Eat reg­u­larly to sta­bi­lize your blood sugar lev­els.

• Avoid caf­feine, al­co­hol and smok­ing!

• Psy­cho­log­i­cal ther­a­pies like CBT (cog­ni­tive be­hav­ioral ther­apy). This can iden­tify and change the neg­a­tive thought that are feed­ing your panic attacks.

Could it be a panic dis­or­der?

If you have a con­stant feel­ing of stress and anx­i­ety, you may have a panic dis­or­der.

Peo­ple with panic dis­or­ders may avoid sit­u­a­tions that might cause a panic at­tack. If these pan­ick attacks are hap­pen­ing fre­quently you should seek help.

Talk to your trusted med­i­cal pro­fes­sional. In sum­mary: Please iden­tify a clinic that you are com­fort­able with. Good Prac­tice Clinic is al­ways ready to lis­ten to your con­cerns and to find a so­lu­tion.

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