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Panic attacks: causes, symptoms and treatments

Panic attacks suffer from 6–8% of the population, with the vast majority of patients (75%) being women. This disease does not apply only to psychological problems, anxiety attacks and unexplained fear are accompanied by somatic symptoms in varying degrees.

Therefore, the best treatment for panic attacks includes drug therapy, psychotherapeutic techniques and, of course, the efforts of the patient himself and his desire to overcome the illness.


Panic attacks, what is it?

Panic attacks

Panic attack is a special kind of neurosis, when there is not only a mental disorder, but also symptoms from the vegetative system.

Panic attacks - not having a good reason for severe anxiety and painful sensation of fear, accompanied by painful symptoms from the heart, abdominal organs or the respiratory system. Panic attack "brings to light" and hypertrophies, distorts hidden fears.

Panic attacks occur spontaneously, their frequency varies from several times a day to 1-2 times a month. Often anxious state is provoked by “threatening” situations: being in a confined space, a crowded place, the need to go outside or a trip by transport.

An inadequate psychological reaction provokes an adrenaline rush as a defensive reaction, and the “adrenaline explosion” leads to the appearance of various autonomic symptoms that further increase fear. “Suddenly I had a heart attack?”, “Do I have a very serious illness?” - such thoughts arise during a panic attack.

A person begins to visit doctors, but more often organic pathology is not detected. Then the patient either starts accusing doctors of incompetence, or remains firmly convinced of the exclusivity and incurability of his illness.

The fear of a repeated attack of fear forms a reflex connection between the painful symptoms and the provocateurs. Repeated adrenaline emissions in the same external situation (riding the subway or elevator, etc.) makes the patient avoid certain places. Fear of re-panic attack is called agoraphobia.

Causes of panic attacks

The reasons that provoke a panic attack include:

  • genetic predisposition - an unstable psyche and a tendency to panic with close relatives;
  • significant life events (not necessarily negative!) - termination of the university, child birth, divorce, death of a loved one, dismissal from work;
  • instability of the situation - violent political events in the country, terrorist attacks;
  • organic pathology - mainly heart disease, including valvular heart disease;
  • endocrine disorders - hyperthyroidism, low blood glucose;
  • taking stimulants - caffeine, drug addiction (cocaine, amphetamine);
  • side effects of some drugs;
  • alcohol abuse;
  • prolonged depression, emotional fatigue;
  • heart neurosis - often accompanied by panic attacks, however, organic changes in the myocardium and valves are not detected.

Signs of a panic attack

The first-onset panic attack usually lasts 5-10 minutes. In this case, vegetovascular dystonia ( VVD ) comes to the forefront of panic attack. A person often calls an ambulance, being sure that his heart aches, manifested a serious stomach disease or other somatic pathology.

In this case, the emotional state is usually treated by the patient not as a cause, but as a consequence of the disease.

Do not worry if only 1-2 cases of panic happened. Often inexplicable fear and anxiety on this end without any complications.

However, for suspicious, overly emotional people, “adrenaline explosions” recur with enviable regularity. In this case, panic disorder should be considered.

Symptoms of a panic attack

Symptoms of a panic attack

Symptomatic picture of a panic attack is quite diverse. Against the background of a clearly expressed anxiety / fear, vegetative symptoms arise.

Symptoms of a panic attack:

  • expression of anxiety - fear of loss of consciousness or death, unreasonable panic, unpleasant feeling in the chest, muscular tension, insomnia and confusion of thoughts;
  • vegetative - sweaty and cold palms, chills and tremors, increased pressure, a lump in the throat and a feeling of lack of air, rapid heartbeat, nausea and diarrhea;
  • neurological - staggering gait, dizziness, unpleasant numbness or tingling in the body, sense of unreality of the environment.

Manifestations of panic attacks can vary significantly in one person, and the severity of symptoms also varies. Often, seizures that were previously repeated 2–4 times a week suddenly disappear and reappear after a long time.

What to do when a panic attack?

The following techniques will help to quickly stop the panic attack:

  1. Diaphragmatic breathing - slowing the breath to 4-5 breaths per minute: deep breath, pause for 1-2 seconds. and slow exhalation.
  2. Physical training - the load on the muscle consumes energy and takes it away from a panic attack, and the synthesized endorphins significantly improve mood and general well-being.
  3. To force yourself to experience all the “power” of a panic attack and at the same time not lose confidence that the condition is completely safe. This technique once and for all will get rid of the fears that fuel panic attacks.

It is possible that from the first attempt your efforts will not be crowned with considerable success, but regular practice of one of the above methods will ultimately yield a result — panic attacks will become as short as possible and their symptoms least pronounced.

How to cope with panic attacks yourself?

What to do when a panic attack

The most important thing a patient should know:

  • Panic attack - a temporary phenomenon, one way or another, it will disappear.
  • The cause of panic disorder is not a severe / fatal organic pathology, and panic attacks do not lead to death.
  • A trip to the subway, going out on the street and other provoking expressed fear of the situation does not threaten health. Do not be afraid of repeated panic attacks and avoid "threatening" circumstances.
  • Panic attack is not schizophrenia or insanity. It is just a neurosis with physical symptoms.
  • Emerging fear has no valid reason. This is an illusion, like the arrogance of a drunken man to swim across the ocean, to charm any woman.
  • Your emotional hypersensitivity is no reason for such violent manifestations at traumatic moments.

If the patient learns these facts, panic attacks can disappear even without the intervention of a qualified physician.

Avoiding "adrenaline explosions" contribute to:

  • Pulling yourself together is the most important rule in a panic attack. This can be facilitated by meditation.
  • Sports, any physical activity with adequate exercise.
  • A healthy lifestyle - combating bad habits, observing sleep patterns, hardening (douche), daily walks.
  • Intellectual activity - reading books (less sitting at the computer!).

Who to ask for help?

Often, the person who first experienced panic fear turns to the therapist. The lack of diagnostic data on organic pathology makes the doctor pay attention to the psychological side. Typically, the patient receives a referral to a psychotherapist or psychologist.

You should not be afraid of this: psychotherapists treat not only schizophrenia, they have at their disposal a number of techniques that affect less serious psychological deviations, including panic attacks.

Treatment: how to get rid of panic attacks?

how to get rid of panic attacks

Comprehensive treatment of panic disorder includes:

Drug therapy - antidepressants (valid after a few weeks) and benzodiazepines (addictive). Doses and duration of administration are determined individually. Overdose is fraught with serious consequences, self-admission is strictly prohibited!

Psychotherapeutic treatment - hypnosis, methods of suggestion, conservative behavioral therapy for the formation of the normal direction of thinking.

Do not rely solely on medicines. Medicines only temporarily reduce psychological tensions. Only in combination with psychological methods, the desire and efforts of the person himself, can panic attacks be defeated.


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