Archive for the ‘Panic Disorder’ Category

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a “false alarm” in the brain. Our brains are hardwired to respond instantaneously, releasing everything we have physically and mentally in moments of crisis. Heroic stories of people lifting cars off of loved ones are examples of this.

In a panic attack we suddenly react physiologically, but there is no crisis. These attacks come “out of the blue.” Because there is no precipitating event, we wonder, “what’s wrong, am I dying, having a heart attack, or going crazy”?

Just as Pavlov conditioned dogs to salivate to a bell, a panic attack becomes conditioned to the environment in which the attack occurred. Anticipatory fear of having another attack can cause anxiety.

There is also a tendency to want to avoid or have great anxiety about situations or places where the panic attacks have occurred. Agoraphobia, or literally “fear of the market place,” is more specifically fear of panic attacks.

Please follow and like us:

Panic Disorder

Earl Campbell (football legend) was in his truck driving to Austin, Texas. He was stopped at a light in the small town of LaGrange. All of a sudden and for no reason he felt chest tightness, racing pulse, and shakiness. He panicked. He thought, “am I having a heart attack, dying, or going crazy”? This is a classic panic attack!

Panic attacks are physical reactions associated with an inappropriate adrenaline response in the body and excessive noradrenaline release in the brain. Though brief, they are terrifying, especially because they come on for no apparent reason or precipitating cause. Panic attacks can be thought of as a “false alarm” in the brain. There is some evidence that two types of panic attacks exist. One relates to hypersensitivity to increased CO and the other to hypersensitivity of the inner ear. Symptoms are acute and intense and vary for each individual. Agoraphobia is usually caused by panic attacks. What the agoraphobic fears is panic or panic related symptoms. He or she may begin to avoid certain situations because of panic attacks.

Although they come out of the blue, panic attacks are almost always preceded by increased stress within the recent few months. Stress includes any significant life change (good or bad), and any loss, as well as conflicts and life demands. The worst stress is associated with a feeling of being helpless to control factors that affect an individual’s life.

Stressors are cumulative and additive. Symptoms tend to occur when the amount of stress in life is greater than stress management (exercise, recreation, relaxing activities, laughter, positive relationships).

Treatment includes patient education, desensitization (behavioral techniques to reverse the phobic process), relaxation techniques (especially proper breathing), and cognitive training. Frequently medication is necessary to aid treatment, or used to shorten the treatment by accelerating the recovery process.

Please follow and like us: