Panic Attacks: Causes, Symptoms, and How to Prevent Them

A panic attack is a condition when a person feels very afraid and anxious all of a sudden. This disorder often makes sufferers feel helpless and even lose consciousness. Therefore, it is important to know the causes and symptoms of panic attacks so that they can be prevented.

A panic attack is a sudden and excessive feeling of fear, anxiety, nervousness, or restlessness. In contrast to emotional reactions in general, the symptoms of a panic attack can be so severe that the person experiencing it becomes helpless and often feels like fainting.

Causes and Symptoms of Panic Attacks

When in a situation that is considered dangerous, the human body will produce the hormone adrenaline. This hormone can cause various effects, namely increasing alertness and sharpness of the senses, increasing energy, and making the heart rate and breathing faster.

This reaction will make a person feel more alert or even panic for a moment. Normally, these reactions will subside after the trigger factors for panic symptoms have been resolved.

However, some people feel a sudden panic even though they are not facing a life-threatening situation or condition. This condition is called a panic disorder or panic attack.

Until now, it is not known what causes panic attacks. However, this condition is known to be more at risk for people who have a history of panic attacks in their family or people who have experienced psychological trauma.

When a panic attack occurs, a person may experience the following physical symptoms:

  • Chest pounding (palpitations)
  • Body shaking and sweating a lot
  • Breath becomes faster
  • Dizzy
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nauseous

In addition to feeling the various physical symptoms above, panic attacks can also make sufferers experience various psychological symptoms, such as:

  • Tense or nervous
  • Can’t relax
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Worrying too much
  • Want to faint or feel like his life is about to end
  • Hard to sleep
  • Weak and feel helpless

The symptoms of a panic attack are often similar to the symptoms of a heart attack. However, these two conditions are different things.

A heart attack will generally cause symptoms of sudden chest pain that spreads to the jaw, neck, or shoulders accompanied by cold sweats. Meanwhile, the symptoms of chest pain due to panic attacks only appear in the chest and are followed by the emergence of very intense anxiety and fear.

To determine whether the symptoms you are experiencing are symptoms of a panic attack or a heart attack, consult a doctor immediately. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will perform a physical examination and supporting examinations consisting of an electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood tests.

How to Prevent and Control Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are psychological problems that need to be treated by psychologists and psychiatrists. To deal with these conditions, doctors can do psychotherapy and give drugs to prevent and overcome panic symptoms that arise.

In addition, you can also try the following ways to help calm yourself and deal with panic attacks that arise:

1. Regulates breathing

Inhale deeply through your nose, hold for 5-10 seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Do these breathing exercises while closing your eyes until you feel calmer.

Not only to relieve panic attacks, but you can also do breathing exercises regularly every day to prevent panic attacks from occurring.

2. Using muscle relaxation techniques

As with breathing techniques, muscle relaxation techniques can also help relieve panic attacks. This technique is done by tightening certain body muscles for 5-10 seconds, then releasing them slowly.

For example, clenching your fists tightly to relax your hand muscles or tilting your head as far as possible to relax your neck muscles.

3. Distracting attention

When a panic attack strikes, try to distract yourself from your anxiety and fear with something you enjoy. For example, by listening to music, exercising, or doing yoga and meditation.

4. Train focus

When a panic attack strikes, some people find it helpful to focus their minds on an object. The trick, choose an object in the scene that is most clearly visible.

For example, you choose to focus on the wall clock. Watch how the clock hands move and describe in your mind what colour, shape, and size the clock will be. Focus all your thoughts on this object until the panic symptoms subside.

5. Inhale aromatherapy

The scent of lavender is known for its calming and stress-relieving effects, thus helping the body to relax more. Apply lavender essential oil on your arm when panic strikes and inhale the aroma. In addition to the lavender scent, you can also try various scents that you like.

To prevent panic attacks, you are also advised to do the following tips:

  • Consume food regularly.
  • Limit or avoid consumption of caffeinated beverages, such as coffee.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get enough rest by sleeping for 7-9 hours every night.
  • Quit smoking and don’t drink alcoholic beverages.
  • Avoid various factors that can trigger stress.

If you have occasional panic attacks, this is probably normal and will go away on its own. However, you need to be vigilant if panic attacks occur frequently or if they get worse and cause symptoms of depression or suicidal ideation. If you feel such a panic attack, you should immediately consult a psychiatrist to get the right treatment.