Panic disorder is characterized by anxiety attacks. An anxiety attack is a sudden feeling of intense fear or discomfort, seemingly from nowhere. It builds up rapidly and then fades over a period of about 10 minutes. However, sometimes they can recur repeatedly over a few hours.
It is not unusual to have a one off anxiety attack which would not indicate a disorder.
These attacks can be:
- Random The anxiety attack occurs without warning and for no identifiable reason.
- Habitual Where a particular place or event always triggers an anxiety attack. E.g. subway trains, lifts, crowds.
- Occasional Where a particular activity sometimes, but not always produces an anxiety attack.
Generally you would need to experience at least two anxiety attacks and probably anxiety over a possible further attack before you should consider yourself with a disorder and seek medical advice.
The disorder takes hold when you begin to constantly worry that you will have another anxiety attack.
An anxiety attack will include four or more of the following panic symptoms with no warning and for no identifiable reason. The symptoms occur mostly as a result of the release of adrenaline into the system and hyperventilation.
- Feeling of losing control.
- Fear of dying or imminent doom.
- Feeling of going crazy.
- Feelings of not being in your body, drifting away.
- Hot and cold flushes.
- Nausea, sinking feeling in the stomach.
- Shaking, trembling, jerking movements.
- Breathing difficulties.
- Heartbeat irregular, racing or beating strongly.
- Tingling sensations or numbness especially in fingers and toes.
- Chest pains
- Dry mouth and choking sensations
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Simple techniques such as mental arithmetic and anchored memories.
Self observation techniques.
Meditation, self hypnosis, music or triggered memories.
Exposure or Flooding
Under supervision only – recreating the symptoms to familiarise yourself with them.
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Healthy eating has been shown to contribute to stress reduction and reduce panic triggers. Avoiding caffeine for example.
Cognitive behaviour techniques.
Deliberate changes in daily habits and lifestyle.