The panic attack or acute anxiety attack
The panic attack is also called “acute anxiety attack” . It’s an episode of anxiety that will happen suddenly and happen just as quickly. It will usually last between 20 to 30 minutes. The panic attack is also a relatively common phenomenon as it is estimated that about one in twenty people will panic during their lifetime , with a female predominance.
How do you recognize the panic attack?
The panic attack can occur in any context. It can be linked to stress. But it can also be triggered outside any stressful factor. It may have a relationship with a psychiatric or somatic pathology, or on the contrary appear in a person not suffering from any particular disease.
The panic attack is accompanied in any case by a panel of worrying physical symptoms that frequently lead to emergency department visits. Some will feel a breathlessness and difficulty breathing. Others will feel their heart beat very violently with sensations of tachycardia, palpitations, vertigo, nausea. The suddenness of such symptoms may be reminiscent of serious heart or respiratory problems.
Among these most common physical symptoms, we will find: feelings of choking and breathing blocking, feelings of tightness or even chest pain, palpitations, sweating, tremors, feeling dizzy or dizzy, an abdominal gene, nausea and vomiting, etc.
These different somatic symptoms will be accompanied by equally violent psychic symptoms. A very diffuse but intense fear will settle in the person (What is happening, am I not dying?). This feeling of fear is usually accompanied by a feeling of complete loss of control of the situation and of oneself (am I not going crazy or crazy?). The phenomenon that we are experiencing is anyway strange, distressing and completely unjustified compared to what we were living previously, which will also cause particular behavior in the person in panic that can range from the most extreme agitation to the most complete absence of reactions as if it were paralyzed and inert.
Psychic and physical sensations (chest tightness for example) combined will strengthen the anxiety of the moment giving the person the impression that she is suffering from a serious illness. His level of anxiety then increases and a real vicious circle sets in. It is very important then to keep in mind that the panic attacks are of a very limited duration that will not exceed more than thirty minutes.
In what context do panic attacks occur?
The panic attack can be unique in a subject’s life.
It can also occur as part of a psychiatric pathology, including “panic disorder” which is characterized by the repetition of panic attacks. It can also be associated with other psychic pathologies such as an anxiety or depressive disorder . Or it can be induced by the taking (or weaning) of toxic products such as alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, etc.
Panic attacks can also occur in a context of more or less stress, but as we said above, they can just as easily happen without any triggering factor being found.
What is Needful to do in case of a panic attack?
The symptoms of panic attacks may resemble those of a serious pathology, it is important at first to eliminate all doubts about a serious somatic disease. A medical examination, or even additional examinations (electrocardiogram, blood test, etc.), may then be necessary.
Then, several measures can help reduce the symptoms of a panic attack.
The environment is therefore very important: trying to isolate oneself and removing any possible sources of anxiety is essential.
The role of the entourage is not to be neglected. This one can reassure the person, explain to him that there is no danger of death and that the symptoms even if they are very unpleasant and distressing at the moment, will quickly disappear.
Finally, a particularly effective measure concerns breathing: trying to focus your attention on your breathing to avoid breathing too quickly, can quickly reduce the symptoms of the panic attack.
If the crisis continues despite all these measures, the doctor may consider drug treatment anxiolytic. It will not be systematic. And most importantly, it will normally be a short-term treatment.
What to do after the panic attack?
After a panic attack, several situations are possible.
In case of isolated panic attack, it may be interesting to learn to recognize the symptoms of acute anxiety attacks finally to anticipate a possible recurrence.
We can also help prevent the
occurrence of other panic attacks thanks to simple rules of hygiene: reduce the
consumption of coffee, tobacco, maintain a good sleep hygiene, etc.
If panic attacks are repeated, specialist care is essential because many effective and accessible therapeutic means exist: cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy, psycho-education , drugs, etc.
In case of other psychiatric disorder associated, specialized care is also essential.
The panic attack is a frequent phenomenon that will affect between 3 and 5% of people over a lifetime. Although its suddenness and violence are very alarming for the person who is living it, it should also be remembered that its duration is very limited in time (between 20 and 30 minutes) and that many are the therapeutic means that exist to take care of it.