We all get anxious from time to time – when speaking in public, visiting the dentist, or just coping with the everyday stresses life throws at us. For some of us, though, anxiety becomes so frequent or forceful that it starts to impact badly on our everyday lives, and this is when we may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
If you’re experiencing regular or chronic feelings of worry or fear, you should consider getting help – why not book a private GP consultation at London Doctors Clinic to discuss your anxiety and work out a better way of managing your condition. And for more information, read on, as we discuss the panic disorder and some self-help tips.
What is Panic Disorder?
Panic disorder is one such illness which falls into the category of anxiety disorders, and it is characterised by experiencing panic attacks.
Not everyone who suffers from panic attacks will receive a diagnosis of panic disorder, though, the disorder is generally only diagnosed when your panic attacks are recurrent, severe, and affecting your ability to function at work, in social settings, or in your personal life. But, before we talk in more detail about the causes of and the treatment for panic attacks, let’s just clear up what a panic attack is.
Panic Attacks Symptoms: Am I Having a Panic Attack?!
Put simply, a panic attack is a sudden and overwhelming feeling of severe and often disabling worry or fear even when there is nothing in your environment to be scared about. Panic attacks can trigger severe physical reactions, which often feel as though you are losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying. They can be very frightening, and they are a real and serious mental health concern that can and should be treated.
As with many mental health issues, panic attacks have many variations, but the essential feature is recurrent attacks which are unexpected, and make you feel extremely anxious for a period of time. These attacks can occur in any situation, even if there is no obvious need to be worried. If you are having a panic attack, you may notice some of the following symptoms of panic attacks:
- Sense of impending doom or danger
- Fear of loss of control or death
- Rapid, pounding heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
- Hot flashes
- Abdominal cramping
- Chest pain
- Dizziness, light-headedness or faintness
In an effort to avoid having more attacks, you may find that you have changed your behaviour since you have been experiencing periods of unexpected panic, because you have become fearful that you might have more attacks in public places, or that there might be unpleasant consequences e.g physical problems, resulting from these repeated attacks.
If you’re having a panic attack, you might experience shortness of breath, chest pain or dizziness
Why Do I Have Panic Attacks?
The reasons for your panic attacks will be very personal to you, but here are some of the more common ones:
- Traumatic life experiences e.g attacks or natural disasters
- Genetics e.g if a family member suffers from the illness
- An imbalance of special chemicals in the brain
- Major stress
- Having a temperament that is more sensitive to stress or negative thoughts
When To See A Doctor Regarding Panic Attacks
If you think you might be suffering from panic attacks, it’s best to see your GP to get yourself checked out. Panic attacks themselves aren’t dangerous, but they can be very uncomfortable and even embarrassing, and there is no need to suffer in silence when there is so much that can be done to help you regain control over your life and your happiness.
Your GP will want you to describe the symptoms you have been experiencing, how often, and where/why they occur. As panic attacks can mimic certain physical problems (such as heart palpitations), it is likely that your GP will carry out a physical examination and perform some tests to rule out underlying medical conditions, and help them to provide you with the correct diagnosis.
If your GP suspects, following investigation, that you are suffering from panic attacks, they may feel it’s for the best to refer you to a mental health specialist, who is trained in helping people with your condition.
Panic Attack Treatment
The main aim in treating panic attacks is to reduce both the severity and the number of panic attacks you experience. The two main types of treatment are:
- Psychological Therapy
Depending on your personal situation, you may receive one or both of these therapies.
If you are offered psychological therapy, it is likely to be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is considered a very effective treatment for panic attacks, and it involved meeting with a highly trained therapist on a weekly basis, who can teach you to:
- Identify negative thoughts and beliefs, and learn to replace them with more helpful alternatives
- Tune into how you feel before, during and after an attack
- Change your behaviours to reduce the number of attacks you experience, or help you to cope better during attacks, typically through learning breathing and relaxation techniques
The medication (should you choose to take it) that is often indicated for treating panic attacks is called a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). These medications are often used in the treatment of depression, but are also effective for many people with panic disorder.
They don’t work for everyone, and they can take several weeks to begin making you feel better, so don’t lose heart!
If you have any concerns about taking medication, it is important to speak to your GP, who can answer any questions you have. Sometimes, an alternative type of anti-depressant drug called a tricyclic anti-depressant, or a medication normally used in controlling high blood pressure (known as a beta-blocker) may be used instead.
Medication is one of the two man ways of treating panic attacks
There are also many ways you can help yourself deal with your panic attacks. Your therapist can help you with most of these measures too. Some things that might help include:
- Staying where you are
- Reassuring yourself
- Taking slow, deep breaths
- Challenging your fear
If you would like to speak to a trained professional about your anxiety or panic attacks, then do not hesitate to book an appointment with one of our private GP’s at London Doctors Clinic. Our doctors are experienced in discussing and helping manage such sensitive issues with patients, and can refer you to specialist services if need be.
Don’t suffer in silence, speaking to a doctor could be the most important first step in tackling your anxiety and panic attacks once and for all.
By Melissa Dillon