Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC
Some people fail to understand just how serious panic attacks can be. If you have panic disorder or another related anxiety disorder, then you might have panic attacks fairly regularly. These can be very trying for you both physically and emotionally. Some people have such severe panic disorder issues that they feel like they can’t even leave the house. If you’ve been experiencing anxiety or panic attack issues as of late, then you might be wondering about whether you need to seek treatment or not.
It’s undoubtedly best to seek panic disorder treatment when you feel like you’re having a tough time with it. Proper diagnosis and treatment are paramount to living a healthy and happy life with panic disorder.
Symptoms of A Panic Disorder
If you are experiencing panic attacks regularly, these can be a feature of panic disorder or another anxiety disorder. You might regularly have panic attacks when you go out in public or it could happen just when specific situations occur. It’s common to notice specific triggers for panic attacks.
Some people have panic attacks just a couple of times per month, but severe cases may experience panic attacks as much as twice per week or more. It depends on the individual and what they’re going through at the time. These panic attacks can also be different between patients because some people have more severe symptoms. Some people use the term ‘anxiety attack’ and ‘panic attack’ interchangeably. The symptoms of panic attacks may include rapid heart rate, hyperventilation, sweating, excessive nervousness, and similar. It might feel like you’re having an asthma attack if you’re familiar with what those feel like.
Some panic attacks have the potential to be even more frightening, and you might even have one that mimics the symptoms of a heart attack. Many people go to the doctor thinking that they’re having a heart attack only to find out that it’s a panic attack instead. A severe panic attack can involve chest pain, difficulty breathing, feeling lightheaded, becoming forgetful, and more. As you can tell, the symptoms of a panic attack can be very scary.
If you haven’t been diagnosed with panic disorder, then it isn’t wise to just assume that you’re having a panic attack. It’s also possible that you could have an underlying medical condition that results in the symptoms or that even causes the panic attack itself. It’s common for people with panic to be cleared by their doctors or undergo a medical evaluation to eliminate potential medical causes.
What Causes Panic Attacks?
There are actually quite a few things that can cause people to have panic attacks. Many studies have been done to determine why panic attacks happen in some people while they don’t in others. Researchers have been able to conclude that genetic factors play a role in the development of panic disorders. If you have people in your family who have anxiety disorders and panic issues, that could contribute to developing those problems at some point. This isn’t the only thing that causes someone to have issues with panic attacks, though.
It’s also true that significant stress can cause someone to experience a panic attack. Any experience of stress or anxiety can serve as a trigger for a panic attack. When you’re going through a very emotional or tough time, it’s going to be more likely that you will have a panic attack in response to that stress. People sometimes note that they have had panic attacks when dealing with the loss of a loved one or in response to significant life turmoil. Going through a divorce could cause you to have panic attacks and so could losing your job suddenly. If you think about it, it makes sense that you would have an anxious response to such situations.
How Long Do Panic Attacks Last?
Panic attacks will usually only last for somewhere between five minutes and twenty minutes, but that can differ greatly depending on how severe your issues are. People who have severe problems with panic disorder might experience panic attacks that will last for hours at a time. This can be terrifying for the people who experience prolonged panic episodes.
Even short panic attacks aren’t fun to deal with, though. If your panic attacks negatively impact your way of life, you should speak to your doctor or licensed mental health professional. Panic issues can keep people from being able to work as effectively and it can make going to school tougher. This is a serious issue that can have serious impacts on your daily life.
Take an Anxiety Test
If you want to know whether you should seek panic disorder treatment, it might be best to take a simple anxiety test. This is a test that is designed to give you an indication of how serious your anxiety may be. This test isn’t meant for diagnosis, but it can help you evaluate where you’re at with your own symptoms and may also help you discuss your symptoms with your therapist or doctor.
Once you’ve finally decided to seek treatment, it’ll be best to get diagnosed by your physician or a therapist. Try to be as honest with your chosen professional as you can about what you have been experiencing. This will give them as much information as possible so that they can help you choose the best possible treatment. Assuming that you have been diagnosed with panic disorder, you will have many treatment options available to you.
Medications may be utilized to support your panic disorder. There are both daily medications for anxiety and as needed medications for panic attacks. Your medical provider will determine what is best for your specific situation. Therapy is often recommended for people with panic attack disorder and other anxiety disorders. There are many therapeutic interventions that have been shown to be helpful with anxiety disorders. Your doctor may refer you to a therapist, or you may seek out a therapist on your own. Having a therapist to discuss anxiety with and to learn valuable techniques from that support you can be very helpful.
Get Support from Friends
Aside from seeking medical treatment, it can be good to get support from your friends and family members, too. Having someone to vent to about a stressful day or someone to spend time with when you’re feeling anxious can make a difference. A good support system is healthy for prevention and management of anxiety disorders.