How Does Anxiety Differ From Panic?
Anxiety symptoms are uncomfortable, but manageable; you can continue in your normal daily activities even while manifesting anxiety symptoms: dry mouth, stomach butterflies, shortness of breath. Indeed, there are times when a little anxiety is even good for us. Anxiety related to an upcoming exam spurs us to study a little harder. Anxiety about a job interview causes us to get a shoeshine or practice our handshake. Anxiety can sometimes give us that little edge we need to improve our performance.
The feeling of panic seems to come out of the blue. It doesn't seem to be related to present activities. It lasts for discrete periods of time, departing as suddenly as it arrived, and there is a sharp rise then as abrupt fall in the physical symptoms. While anxiety can last for days, it usually stays within manageable levels. Panic's intensity is self-limiting since the body cannot maintain that state of intensity for prolonged periods of time.
Could I have a Heart Attack or Die From a Panic Attack?
The answer is no. While the panic attack gives you physical symptoms, it is not connected to any medical condition and does not show any damage to the systems involved in a panic attack when medical tests are run during a panic attack. Of course, we recommend that you consult a physician to rule out any possible physical factors or medical conditions involved in your anxiety or panic. (Examples are thyroid irregularities and caffeine intoxication.) Your physician can also allay your worry by telling you under what circumstances your symptoms should be medically evaluated to rule out physical involvement.
Can I Totally Lose Control During a Panic Attack?
No! This is a common fear and one that keeps many panic victims from even attempting activities they fear might bring on a panic attack. Although most panic victims fear this total loss of control, most are unable to clearly define what they mean by "losing control." The general fear is of somehow "losing it" during a panic attack, and acting so dramatically that the victim is publicly humiliated forever. It is comforting to remember that, despite the panic victim's certainty that "everyone" can immediately detect a panic state, even panic disorder specialists have difficulty recognizing when a victim is experiencing a panic attack. The outward appearance of the victim appears normal to even the trained eye.
How Long Does a Panic Attack Usually Last?
During a panic attack, your sense of time passing is lost and the attack seems to be never-ending. In reality, it usually lasts for only a few minutes. The body cannot sustain the intensity of the panic state for very long and will move to balance itself and relieve the paniky feeling. In rare cases, the panic continues for a longer period of time. However, counseling teaches the victim to prevent anxiety from building to this level.
How Can I Control My Panic Attack?
Dr. Claire Weeks, in her book Peace From Nervous Suffering (1983), tells the reader to "float through" the panic rather than fight it. Like a swimmer caught in a strong current, if you fight the current, you exhaust yourself and are overwhelmed. If you ride the current, you eventually drift onto the shore. This is one of many coping strategies that panic attack victims learn in counseling.
What Is the First Step Toward Recovery?
Whether the panic attack victim has had the disorder for only months or for several years, recovery is possible. The first step to recovery is in the victims acceptance of certain facts. Here they are:
* There is a name for what is happening to you. * You are not going crazy. * You are not alone. One out of six Americans is victimized by an anxiety disorder, and panic disorder is the most common disorder among those seeking treatment. * There is effective, comprehensive treatment for the disorder. * With determination and hard work, comprehensive treatment can help you reach recovery.
As the secondary victim, or the concerned professional or friend, you can help the primary victim take this first step if he or she hasn't already. Your message is simple: panic, the formidable enemy, can be conquered, and you are there to help.