A question about panic attacks

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Hatsune Candy, Jan 19, 2016.

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  1. What exactly qualifies as a panic attack? I hear people talk about them all the time, but I don't know nearly as much about them as I would really like. Are there different degrees of panic attacks? Different types? What are the most common symptoms? How about the rare ones? How long do panic attacks typically last? Etc.

    This important for me to fully understand so that I may determine whether or not this is something that I've been experiencing. I don't want to go to my therapist and tell them that I experience frequent panic attacks when I'm merely just mistaken, so I would be most pleased if someone with better knowledge than I were to help me out.
  2. Panic attacks are such a broad category that being able to point it out and say 'that's a textbook panic attack' is nigh impossible to my knowledge.

    Dictionary definition says its a sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety.

    Which means everyone on earth who hesitated because they were anxious experienced a panic attack at least once. It's that broad.

    My wife gets them quite often. Though she won't admit them being an 'attack' that's basically what they are. Something happens that makes her freeze, cling to me, try to retreat away, etc falls under that attack category. It can be someone cutting her off on the road, a shopping aisle too full of people, or an important decision for our future. The degrees by which are simply vast. Surely someone will come along and describe it all better than I can. But they are unique to everyone.

    Don't go to a therapist while holding yourself back on a question because you're worried you'll look foolish. The worst they'll do is correct you. Tell them about how you feeling during an episode and ask if that's something they'd call an attack.
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  3. As taken from WebMD:

    There are several types of anxiety disorders including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.
    Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at times. Many people feel anxious, or nervous, when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. They can cause such distress that it interferes with a person's ability to lead a normal life.
    An anxiety disorder is a serious mental illness. For people with anxiety disorders, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be crippling.

    What Are the Types of Anxiety Disorders?

    There are several recognized types of anxiety disorders, including:

    • Panic disorder : People with this condition have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Other symptoms of a panic attack include sweating, chest pain, palpitations (unusually strong or irregular heartbeats), and a feeling of choking, which may make the person feel like he or she is having a heart attack or "going crazy."
    • Social anxiety disorder : Also called social phobia, social anxiety disorder involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centers on a fear of being judged by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule.
    • Specific phobias : A specific phobia is an intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as snakes, heights, or flying. The level of fear is usually inappropriate to the situation and may cause the person to avoid common, everyday situations.
    • Generalized anxiety disorder : This disorder involves excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.

    What Are the Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder?

    Symptoms vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder, but general symptoms include:
    Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
    Problems sleeping
    Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
    Shortness of breath
    Heart palpitations
    An inability to be still and calm
    Dry mouth
    Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
    Muscle tension

    What Causes Anxiety Disorders?

    The exact cause of anxiety disorders is unknown; but anxiety disorders -- like other forms of mental illness -- are not the result of personal weakness, a character flaw, or poor upbringing. As scientists continue their research on mental illness, it is becoming clear that many of these disorders are caused by a combination of factors, including changes in the brain and environmental stress.
    Like other brain illnesses, anxiety disorders may be caused by problems in the functioning of brain circuits that regulate fear and other emotions. Studies have shown that severe or long-lasting stress can change the way nerve cells within these circuits transmit information from one region of the brain to another. Other studies have shown that people with certain anxiety disorders have changes in certain brain structures that control memories linked with strong emotions. In addition, studies have shown that anxiety disorders run in families, which means that they can at least partly be inherited from one or both parents, like the risk for heart disease or cancer. Moreover, certain environmental factors -- such as a trauma or significant event -- may trigger an anxiety disorder in people who have an inherited susceptibility to developing the disorder.

    How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?

    Anxiety disorders affect millions of adult Americans. Most anxiety disorders begin in childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. They occur slightly more often in women than in men, and occur with equal frequency in whites, African-Americans, and Hispanics.

    How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed?

    If symptoms of an anxiety disorder are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by asking you questions about your medical history and performing a physical exam. Although there are no lab tests to specifically diagnose anxiety disorders, the doctor may use various tests to look for physical illness as the cause of the symptoms.

    If no physical illness is found, you may be referred to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health professional who is specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for an anxiety disorder.

    The doctor bases his or her diagnosis on the patient's report of the intensity and duration of symptoms -- including any problems with daily functioning caused by the symptoms -- and the doctor's observation of the patient's attitude and behavior. The doctor then determines if the patient's symptoms and degree of dysfunction indicate a specific anxiety disorder.
    How Are Anxiety Disorders Treated?

    Fortunately, much progress has been made in the last two decades in the treatment of people with mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders. Although the exact treatment approach depends on the type of disorder, one or a combination of the following therapies may be used for most anxiety disorders:
    • Medication : Drugs used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders include anti-depressants and anxiety-reducing drugs.
    • Psychotherapy : Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) addresses the emotional response to mental illness. It is a process in which trained mental health professionals help people by talking through strategies for understanding and dealing with their disorder.
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This is a particular type of psychotherapy in which the person learns to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings.
    • Dietary and lifestyle changes.
    • Relaxation therapy.
    Can Anxiety Disorders Be Prevented?

    Anxiety disorders cannot be prevented; however, there are some things you can do to control or lessen symptoms:
    • Stop or reduce consumption of products that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks, and chocolate.
    • Ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medicines or herbal remedies. Many contain chemicals that can increase anxiety symptoms.
    • Seek counseling and support if you start to regularly feel anxious with no apparent cause.
    #3 Seiji, Jan 19, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2016
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  4. I don't know anything about what medically counts as a Panic Attack, best I can do is google definitions.

    That being said though, you shouldn't let a fear of miss-labeling stop you from seeing a Doctor.
    Just when you go seem them say "Doc, I think I might be suffering panic attacks".

    They're professionals so they'll be able to give it a check and tell for sure what's going on. And if no, refer you to someone that does.
    And often times with stuff like this, people will avoid because they are suffering but it doesn't exactly fit what they suspect.

    Ex: Someone with Social Anxiety thinks they might have Depression. But the symptoms don't fully match up so they don't bother going.

    When by going to see the Doctor, even if you're initial hunch is wrong you're still addressing a problem and they can help you figure out what the actual problem is.
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  5. ^ My immediate thought when I saw this thread.

    "What counts as a panic attack" is, at the very least, a question for WebMD, or some other decent website that's dedicated to this sort of thing. Not a forum full of roleplayers.

    And the best case scenario? You should really be talking to your doctor, especially if you're concerned that you might be suffering from panic attacks.
  6. I agree that you need to talk to your doctor about this and not Iwaku, but I'd also like to mention that not all panic/anxiety attacks are your typical hyperventilating, sweating, unable to stand still attacks. Mine are the exact opposite: I withdraw into myself. If shit gets bad enough, I dissociate. A lot of people would not be able to tell I was having an anxiety attack just by looking at me, unless they knew me well enough. Those are also anxiety attacks.

    I wish you the best of luck! Your therapist isn't there to judge you. Most importantly, they'll be able to tell you whether or not you are experiencing them and hopefully aid you in handling them.
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  7. Everyone so far has been very right with their answers. Each attack is different for each person. The way people come down from these attacks are also different. Even the 'level' of an attack can be different. I could tell you ways in which helps me calm down, but I figure you should try and find that out on your own, since it's different for each person. The key thing to remember is that not matter what just keep breathing slowly, try very hard not to hyperventilate if you get to that point. If you find yourself unable to take in calming breaths, hold your finger out in front of you and pretend it's a candle. Take in a long deep breath and 'blow it out'. Do it over and over again.

    I hope you feel better.
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  8. Ah, see, now that's exactly the kinda thing I've been experiencing, I just wasn't too sure as to whether or not they could be considered panic/anxiety attacks. I knew panic attacks varied from person to person, I just didn't know by how much, but it's good to know that the differences can actually be quite significant.

    Thanks for the info guys! I'll be sure to keep it in mind when I talk to my therapist (really super nervous about that, btw, never gone to therapy before now).
  9. Good luck! :)
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  10. Going to a therapist for the first time can be really scary! Sometimes you don't jive well with your first therapist, but that doesn't mean it was a failure. It took me a few tries to find a therapist that I adored, but once I found her, she helped me so much. I really do wish you the best of luck. Anxiety attacks can be really terrifying. I often lose my way; I've gotten lost in the city on a wrong bus before because of it. Or I'll have to take breaks from work, because I end up sitting still like a statue freaking out on the instead. D:

    If you need someone to talk to, feel free to PM me though, okay? <3
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  11. tl;dr version
    • Fight or Flight kicks in during an anxiety attack
    • My experience of it was tunnel vision and dizziness, probably was feeling clammy and sweaty too.
    • Therapy helps, but we had a very clear idea of why I was having them and fixed that shit lickety-split, because I hate going to therapy. Also, my therapist was all business, none of this Freudian "Tell me about deine mutti und have a line of cocaine" shit. Bright room, chairs, no leather couch.
    • It worked for me, but other people have more complicated issues going on, so we can't assume one size fits all, because nothing medical, particularly psychiatric, ever is. Way more people go to therapy than admit to therapy (that's the upshot of my conversations with a social worker co-worker) so I like to be up front about my experience of therapy, as it was positive.
    • If you're looking for advice, seek professional help. There's a reason people spend years studying this stuff, and it's not for the pleasure of staring at framed sheepskin. ;)
    • You're already admitting the problem, but telling the internet about it is easier than going and getting the help. Don't be like me and try to stay in a bad place too long. I highly recommend taking that huge but awesome step of doing something about it.
    • Which is exactly why I am posting the longer version and don't really care if someone wants to try to read that and go, "HeySeuss, you're some kind of whatever" because it's messy and ridiculous in a sense. But real life is often a rueful accumulation of wisdom learned from fucking up, and that's certainly what the narrative below amounts to.
    • edit: Practical advice -- don't tell the doc what you think you have. Tell them the symptoms and let them do the rest of it. Talk about how you feel and what you experience.
    The Long Version (open)
    I only had one, and a couple near-misses related to the same sort of thing, but it's essentially your fight or flight kicking in at an inappropriate time.

    In my case, it was related to two people; my incompetent executive chef (at the time) and my bipolar, off the wall, badly medicated executive sous chef, who was always splashing hot oil on people. I was working at a 1000-room convention hotel as a chef handling the banquet orders for up to (at least in my time) 3000 people at a time, which is an unholy fuckton of food. The work was hard, but we lost our previous executive sous chef who was competent and kept us organized, and got this flaming rageaholic (of course, he raged as soon as we asked him for anything, because he wanted to sit in the cubicle and browse travel sites) instead, in addition to our essentially useless, conniving corporate suit of a cubicle monkey executive chef who stayed in his office and didn't do anything.

    So we were always fucked at work these days, and I was having health problems and I was trying to get the fuck out of the industry. I had a huge life-threatening medical emergency that landed me in a hospital for a week and on medical leave for two months because of the severity of it, and that prevented me from just finding another job in a different kitchen -- I was not medically fit to be working in the kitchen anymore, but I held onto this job while I tried to do a career change...which is extremely difficult.

    Basically, my job search had been fairly fruitless and, quite frankly, I was feeling utterly trapped by the situation. There was so much work to do and I never had time to be anything but exhausted after running 10-16 hour days in there because we were short staffed, and in the parlance of our French idiot chef, "Beezee." (Busy - but never so busy that he didn't leave on time, even when we were all slaving away overtime.)

    It was like he knew I wanted to jump and was keeping me too beezee to do anything but wish for a way to get the fuck out of that place. I had just recovered from a pulmonary embolism (that's a blood clot in the lung) where, three months ago, the same chef tried to stop me from getting medical care: I had taken a knock to the leg at work, gotten a clot and the blood thinner failed. The HR department let me off thinking I was just faking it (because that's what the chef told them) and I went straight to the hospital where they admitted me -- which is to say, no, I wasn't faking it, you French goatfucker. That day, he'd scheduled me all alone with a shitpile of work to do, so me having an inconvenient life-threatening emergency with a 1/3 chance of dying from it, was fucking with his schedule. Boo-hoo. (this is important, as the lesson learned from this experience was that someone said - "I would have just called the ambulance and let the paramedics punch their way through.")

    So anyway, it was roughly February 21st and we had a really awful snow storm and a shitpile of work to do as usual in the kitchen. The chef, as usual, was panicking because he was scared of the new general manager and wanted us all to produce more and more food, even though it was coming back on huge platters and not being eaten. So we were working uselessly and wasting product and getting worked to death. There was a blizzard on and it took about four hours for me to get home because the roads were utterly messed up and 83 was closed.

    The next day, I come in, find out that nothing is done and two people called out because of the blizzards, even though roads are clear. I start working but feel like there is no way out and we're already behind on everything-- this trapped theme keeps cropping up for a reason. I'm already watching the world from this detached feeling that my hands are way further away than they should be and it's like tunnel vision. Then the chef bursts in and says he needs more of blah-blah-blah and the room starts spinning. The French shit spits out at me, "Calm down!" like that's going to do anything. I grab my phone and stagger to a spot where I can hold on and dial 9-1-1 -- the last time I had the medical emergency, he tried to stop things, and I was going down to the floor. We had a guy vomit blood and this guy wouldn't call an ambulance. So I knew that I had to just do it myself and let the paramedics punch their way through. The Director of Security hates that shit, but I didn't like him all that much either.

    Paramedics take me into a room, tell the director of security to fuck off and then ask me if I want to come in and get help. Actually, they're doing everything they can to convince me to do so -- I think they met the chef and realized what was up. I am feeling stupid right now, because the symptoms went away because, surprise, I settled down and started breathing. But realizing that I couldn't carry on like that, I went for it.

    So I get taken to University Medical Center where I get brought into the Psych ER. After I describe the symptoms and experience over and over to the intake people and so forth, this nice Australian shrink tells me it's a classic anxiety attack and explains the fight or flight reaction thing. I actually showed her my texts and e-mails at the time because I felt full disclosure was great -- and she got to see the thought processes involved and the 'trapped' thing definitely came up. Her advice was blunt -- you have options, but you're in denial about them-- grow a pair and take 'em. (She phrased it differently.)

    But it's the nurse, this Ghanian guy that tells me the really useful piece of advice, "Get out of there. You need to find something else to do. That man will kill you."

    So I took a week off work, came back, put my two weeks notice in and have not looked back. During the two weeks, it was hell and the chef worked me up to the very bitter end and there were a couple times when I wanted to just walk off the job, but I wanted my vacation time and I didn't want any shade thrown on my leaving. At this point, I was seeing a person for a little supportive therapy, but that amounted to, "You're going to feel so much better when you get out of there."

    Incidentally, Director of Security threatened to slap me with a 400 dollar bill for the ambulance, unofficially through a coworker he knows socially, so through same co-worker, socially, I bring up that I already have letters from the widow of the guy who vomited blood and died as well as a girl who had an allergic reaction and wasn't allowed to seek medical treatment (which is why I just called 9-1-1 instead of asking for permission) and lawyers ready to go. Not sure if the bill ever came, but it certainly didn't come to me.

    So the professionals were all right. I changed careers entirely and I haven't had an anxiety attack since. I'm way happier in my work.
    #11 HeySeuss, Jan 20, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2016
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  12. I actually started going to a therapist over my Anxiety issues just a few weeks ago. Best thing I've done for myself.

    My panic attacks caused hyperventliation, overpowering sense of dread and guilt and a total lockdown of my motorfunctions. I just crawled up and tensed so hard I pulled several muscles. As Wind said. It is different for everyone.
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  13. Thanks for the offer! I'll try to keep that in mind.

    I'll have to admit, while I am concerned about the possibility of me experiencing panic attacks, I mainly made this thread as a way to alleviate some of the anxiety I feel about seeing a therapist; it's been eating me up inside for several days now and I haven't been able to calm down since I locked down an appointment for next week. Thankfully, seeing you guys' support and willingness to help has really calmed my nerves quite a bit. Still rather nervous, but at least now I feel a bit more prepared.
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  14. There's no need to feel nervous about seeing a therapist, I've been going through psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors since I can remember. My panic attacks tend to be over really quickly, but are really loud and explosive--usually I start crying, then hyperventilating, then I double over/tense up/hobble around while shouting "I can't breathe, I can't breathe!" (or, in one case, "It's happening again!" when I had two attacks in one day.) Sometimes this makes people think I'm having an asthma attack, which can be an issue in itself (people possibly crowding me to give me medical help, for example).

    Whenever I reach past the hyperventilation stage, though, emotionally I sort of plateau. I instantly step outside of myself and watch my body and surroundings like a disaffected bystander, so it can be almost cathartic but also really stressful and embarrassing when the adrenaline wears off. The worst part is the fact that I lose the ability to breathe except by essentially wailing when I exhale. Super fun. Another weird symptom: if I'm on the verge of an attack and I'm pacing around looking all red-faced and bleary-eyed, the worst thing to do is try to get me to speak, because that's when the sobbing starts and the attack follows. :I

    Those are just some of my symptoms. I hope this helps show just how varied panic/anxiety attacks can be! It feels nice to describe the process out in the open, I haven't really talked about it with people because the memories of my attacks can be sorta uncomfortable.
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  15. i used to have panic attacks. i found a simple way to get rid of them, although it took me probably about a year until they stopped completely. i just do exactly what i'm most afraid of. used to be really hard, but now it's almost automatic. the benefit is finding out right away that usually my anxiety was exagerated and i really had no reason to hyperventilate or feel the need to run away, because what i imagined as terrifying was mostly harmless. so in your case, if you're afraid to go to therapy, just get on the phone, make an apointment, and go there on the agreed date and time.
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