Check out Panic: All you need to know about panic attacks
Dr. Sandeep Vohra
What exactly are panic attacks?
Panic attacks are characterized by sudden, brief feelings of fear and strong physical reactions in response to normal, non-threatening situations. These may include rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, tremors, and muscle tension. Panic attacks occur frequently and unexpectedly and are often not related to an external threat. They also occur in people with other mental disorders (such as depression). Some panic attacks occur in response to a specific situation.
Who is susceptible to panic attacks?
The age of onset of panic attacks is often seen between late adolescence and early adulthood. Even though panic attacks usually develop between the ages of 18 and 35, they can happen at any time throughout life.
Panic attacks are almost two times more common in women than in men. Women are also more likely to have agoraphobia. It is most likely to appear in those 20-29 years of age. But, it can start as early as adolescence or as early as 30 to 40 years of age.
What are triggers?
Panic attacks are often a very frightening experience. They are not life threatening. However, they can harm one’s quality of life and cause extreme stress. Panic attacks can have many triggers, including:
*a painful condition
* Dramatic life change
When should one seek medical help in a panic attack?
Panic attacks usually start suddenly without warning. The fear of having another panic attack can interfere with the normal functioning of life. This can cause the person to avoid events or places and/or isolate from people. They can strike at any time—while driving, at bedtime, or in the middle of a business meeting. There are many forms of panic attacks, but symptoms usually peak within minutes. It can cause rapid heart rate, sweating, shortness of breath or tightness in the throat, hot flashes, nausea, dizziness, etc. It can be so severe that the patient feels as if he is about to die, prompting him to run away immediately. In the nearest hospital, however, many people who have panic attacks do not seek medical care because of embarrassment. They are afraid to seek medical help or are afraid to take medicine. However, it is very important to seek medical care and discuss your problem with a doctor. After the examination, the doctor/psychiatrist will be able to tell the reason for the panic attack.
How do such patients benefit from lifestyle changes?
Making lifestyle changes will help control the problems that can lead to panic attacks.
a) Build healthy habits
It is necessary to avoid …
*Caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea, chocolate and soft drinks, etc.
*Limit alcohol consumption to the least possible or at all
* quit smoking
*Avoid taking certain prescription drugs that can cause nervousness
b) Get plenty of rest: Sleep is important for maintaining overall health. A good night’s sleep can reduce stress levels and reduce the chances of panic attacks.
d) Exercise regularly: There are many benefits of exercise. A regular routine will help reduce stress and manage panic attacks
Are alternative treatments beneficial?
Your doctor may prescribe a number of natural methods and herbal remedies for psychiatric panic attacks, in complementary or alternative treatments to psychotherapy and/or medication.
Exercising regularly and practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga to overcome anxiety panic disorder. The routine should include cardiovascular exercise, which burns lactic acid, produces mood-enhancing chemicals called endorphins, and causes the body to use oxygen more efficiently. Controlled breathing techniques can also help reduce panic attacks.
(Dr. Sandeep Vohra is a Senior Consultant, Mental Health and Psychiatry, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi)