When Anxiety Attacks:
Anxiety Attacks and Panic Disorder

See that poor little goldfish at the top of the page? He's got a good reason to panic. 

His "fight or flight" response is telling him to swim away, fast, NOW. When something is threatening us humans, our fight or flight response directs us out of danger, too, by giving us a quick surge of adrenaline and other stress hormones, making us hyper-alert, focused and ready to take down any saber-tooth tiger that comes our way. It is a hard-wired survival mechanism that by-passes the logical mind so that we can fight or run away FAST, as necessary. This is a good thing.

Anxiety attacks (also known as panic attacks), are not a good thing. 

That same hard-wired survival mechanism that gets us all pumped up and ready to roll is activated--but, where's the saber-tooth tiger?Anxiety attacks often seem to come out of nowhere, for no apparent reason; if there is an identifiable stressor, like the kitty in the picture, it's usually something our rational self knows doesn't warrant such a dramatic response.

In fact, the scariest thing about anxiety attacks usually turns out to be the anxiety attack itself.

And no wonder, when you consider the types of symptoms one can have, listed as follows, from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5):

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
  • Feelings of not "being real" or feeling "separate from one's body"
  • Fear of losing control or "going crazy"
  • Fear of dying
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Chills or heat sensations

As you can see, symptoms of panic attacks are primarily experienced as physical sensations,

so the first reasonable step in treating them is a visit to the doctor for a thorough physical examination to rule out any medical problems that might be present. If the doctor suspects anxiety is the cause of your symptoms, she may ask some questions about your stress level, and may prescribe a mild tranquilizer for short term use, as well as some good advice on stress management. One of those bits of good advice might be to see a licensed mental health professional who specializes in anxiety treatment , to help you get to the root of what's causing your symptoms. Remember, anxiety attacks only seem to come out of nowhere; you need with the right treatment to be able to determine the cause of your symptoms, and learn how to make your symptoms go away. 

Treatment for panic disorder

usually involves taking a look at your thoughts and beliefs about certain aspects of your life that may have become habitual without your even knowing it. Learning to identify these thoughts and beliefs and replace them with new ones that are more "up-to-date" with your life and lifestyle, will help you manage, lessen, and in the best of cases actually get rid of your panic attacks. This type of therapy is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Other types of "talk therapy," as well as relaxation therapy and stress management techniques, are commonly used to treat panic disorder; at times appropriate medications may be considered for use in collaboration with therapy. 

The root cause of panic disorder can be as varied as the person experiencing it. 

There is some evidence to suggest that at least for some people, panic attacks or other of the anxiety disorders , may have a genetic basis and could therefore be hereditary, although to date no genetic markers have been identified. There is even more evidence to believe that the way one reacts to the stressors in one's life is a learned behavior. In some of the cases I've worked with, certain beliefs have been so well learned that they seem to have been passed down from generation to generation as if they truly were "on a cellular level." An example of such a belief might be that "money is bad," or "all men are controlling." These types of limiting beliefs can come into conflict with the realities of a person's life (such as work or relationships), create anxiety, and possibly lead to panic attack.

Have you had it with your anxiety?

Contact me today-- it's time to get back on track. 

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