Understanding and Dealing with Your Panic Attacks

by on May 21, 2014

Understanding PanicPanic attacks can be brought on by drastic changes in your life that cause you to feel stressed or overwhelmed. Periods of transition — graduation, divorce, searching for employment — can be difficult enough to increase anxiety and trigger a panic attack.

Panic attacks usually start during young adulthood. Most people report being in their teens or their twenties when they experience their first panic attack. In general, more women than men are affected by panic attacks.

According to the American Psychological Association, the occurrence of four or more panic attacks and a strong fear of future attacks are characteristic of panic disorder.

The APA states that panic attacks can cause additional complications to your mental health. The APA article mentions that panic disorder “can often lead to a phobia” including a fear of the situation in which you first had a panic attack and a fear of going outdoors (agoraphobia). Avoiding any normal situation that could lead to a panic attack is not healthy, and it doesn’t really make the panic go away.

Panic disorder can also put you at risk for maladaptive behaviors such as using drugs in an unhealthy way that can lead to addiction. This can be especially harmful for a teenager, who may use drugs as a way to stifle his or her anxiety.

Treating Panic Disorder

Before you can receive treatment for panic disorder, you need to be formally diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional or doctor. A professional diagnosis can help to rule out other illnesses that may be causing your symptoms.

When getting diagnosed, it’s important to be honest during any assessments and to disclose as much information as the doctor or psychologist/psychiatrist needs to get a complete idea of your symptoms.

You can prepare for a meeting with a mental health professional by keeping a diary of all your symptoms as well as the dates of your panic attacks. You may also find it useful to keep a log of your diet since certain foods (like caffeine) are known to trigger attacks in some people.

Therapy and/or medication is generally recommended for the treatment of panic disorder. A therapist can help you decide which kind of therapy is right for you based on your characteristics, your background, and your unique complaints. A psychiatrist should be able to tell you if medication may be helpful to your recovery and to prescribe it, if necessary.

Photo Credit: paul bica via Compfight cc

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