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This Month In Health
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  • Panic Attacks
    You’re quietly sitting at home and all of a sudden you feel short of breath, your heart is racing, and your chest feels tight. It's not a heart attack. It's a panic attack. Read >>
Health and Fitness News

Panic Attacks

They come out of the blue, and they could happen to you.

You’re quietly sitting at home and all of a sudden you feel short of breath, your heart is racing, and your chest feels tight. Your first thought is that you’re having a heart attack and that this is the end. After a few minutes or a trip to the E.R. your symptoms begin to subside and you realize that what you just suffered wasn’t a heart attack. It was another type of attack that is just as terrifying. You suffered a panic attack.

If this situation sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Millions of people suffer panic attacks every year, and every one is just as scary as the last.

Here’s what you should know about these scary events.

What Happens During an Attack

The first few panic attacks typically come out of nowhere, without warning. At the time you may feel anxious about something or fell completely relaxed. You may be driving down the road, sitting at your desk, or even sleeping when you suddenly feel intense fear. This anxiety triggers physical symptoms, even though there is no real danger present.

During a panic attack you’ll experience at least four of the following symptoms:

• a sense of danger or a feeling that something horrible is about to happen
• a fear that you’ll die or lose control
• sweating
• trembling
• pounding heart rate or heart palpitations
• tightness in your throat
• hot flashes or chills
• shortness of breath or feeling that you can’t catch your breath
• chest pain
• nausea
• stomach cramps
• dizziness
• headache
• tingling sensations
• feeling a loss of touch with reality
• feeling you’re going crazy.

These overwhelming attacks usually last no more than 20 or 30 minutes. Afterward you may feel worn out. And following your first panic attack, you’ll likely live in fear of having another. As a result, you may avoid situations or places associated with your panic attack. Some people only have one or two episodes, while others suffer with panic attacks for years.

Why Panic Attacks Happen

Panic disorder affects millions of people. Typically beginning in the teen years or early adulthood, the disorder affects twice as many women as men. The exact cause of the disorder is unknown, but it’s suspected to be the result of both biological and environmental factors. There seems to be a genetic component and attacks may be triggered by drug or alcohol abuse, stress, major life changes, traumatic events, changes in the brain, or harmful patterns of thinking.

During a panic attack, your body undergoes an exaggerated response to stress. When your adrenaline starts pumping, you experience the fight or flight response and the symptoms of a panic attack.

How They Are Treated

Panic disorder is highly treatable, so don’t think you have to suffer alone in silence. Treatment typically involves a combination of therapy (psychotherapy, biofeedback therapy, or cognitive therapy), medications, and lifestyle changes.
Without treatment, panic attacks will likely continue, get worse, and affect your ability to live everyday life. So getting help early helps avoid these problems, allowing you to enjoy life to the fullest.

Can They Be Prevented

Since panic attacks often strike without warning, there’s no way to prevent them. Rather, the best treatment is to reduce your chances of having one again. To do this, find a therapist you’re comfortable with and begin therapy immediately.
Once treatment begins, stick with the plan. Take your doctor’s advice, stay on your medication if it’s prescribed, and learn what steps to take if another attack happens.

You can also fend off panic attacks with regular exercise. Being active is a proven way to protect against anxiety and lessen its effects. Learn breathing exercises that help you relax and eat healthy meals on a regular schedule to keep your blood sugar stable.

All of these steps improve your overall health and put you on the road to a panic-free life.

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