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What is an anxiety attack

What Is An Anxiety Attack?

People with an anxiety disorder often have a fearful reaction to uncommon things and events. Their anxiety response may include physical symptoms like sweating and pounding of the chest. It’s okay to feel anxious when you’re faced with a problem or when you have to deal with a new situation. Sometimes, anxiety can be of benefit to you because it helps to identify dangerous situations and concentrate on them to stay safe.

Whether it’s an interview, the first day at a new job, or going up for a promotion, many life events trigger our stress response. These are all typical signs that our body is preparing for meaningful situations by putting us into a state of high alertness. However, for roughly one in three people, anxiety will become more than preparation for important moments. When this happens, anxiety can become a challenging issue to address. 

Who Is Most Likely To Have Anxiety Disorders?

Genetic and environmental factors are the two major risk factors for anxiety disorders. You might be more likely to be at risk of anxiety disorders if you’ve had or have:

  • Personality traits like shyness or behavioral inhibition where you feel uncomfortable with associating with unfamiliar people and environments
  • Stressful or traumatic experience while growing up or in adulthood
  • Family members or relatives with a history of anxiety
  • Other physical conditions including heart arrhythmias and thyroid problems.

Anxiety disorders mainly occur in women. Researchers believe that they may stem from women’s hormones, especially those that change throughout the month. The hormone testosterone also has its function– men tend to have it more, and it helps to reduce anxiety. Also, women have lower chances of seeking treatment, so their symptoms worsen than men.

How to Recognize an Attack

Imagine you are on your way to the grocery store when your chest starts to feel tight. You begin sweating and notice that you can’t seem to catch your breath. You may try to slow down your breathing, but you keep getting distracted by fearful thoughts about what’s happening to you. You wonder if you should call 911, but the numbness in your hands makes it hard to handle your phone, and you can’t think of any good reason you’d be having a heart attack. You get to the grocery store parking lot and decide to make the call. You pull out your phone, but your hands are no longer shaking. You’re taking full deep breaths. The dread seems to have been replaced by the sense that things are generally at least okay, though far from perfect. You’ve just had a panic attack, also commonly called an anxiety attack.

This is just an example of the symptoms you might experience. 

A more comprehensive list includes:

  • A racing pulse, pounding heartbeats, or heart palpitations
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Shallow or labored breathing
  • Dizziness
  • A feeling of weakness in the legs
  • Tingly or numb hands
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain or nausea
  • Fear of “losing your mind” or dying
  • A feeling of being disconnected from your body

Most attacks are relatively short, lasting five to twenty minutes, with some lasting about an hour. However, the feeling of terror associated with these attacks can make five minutes feel closer to one hour, so the intensity of the feeling is vital to keep in mind.

While these are undoubtedly frightening episodes, they are not dangerous. The primary reason for treating panic disorder is its interference with your quality of life. Avoiding situations in which you’ve had panic attacks or that you’re worried may cause panic attacks can lead to isolation, unfulfillment, and disappointment. 

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic or anxiety attacks are most commonly associated with panic disorder. Most people will have a maximum of one or two panic attacks over their lifespan. Like most mental disorders, panic disorder diagnoses are about how much the symptoms interfere with your life. If you’ve had four panic attacks and are often distracted by the fear that you may have another, you likely have panic disorder

Causes of Panic Disorder

While the precise causes are unknown, the usual suspects include traumatic or highly stressful life events and genetics. The loss of a loved one, extreme financial burden, or a difficult childhood is likely to interact with a person’s genetics to bring about panic disorder. People with a family member who suffers from panic disorder are more likely to suffer from panic disorder.

Managing Panic

While at-home techniques are no substitute for seeking help, there are a few things you can do to help ease your panic attack symptoms. These activities will help you release stress, improve your mood, and strengthen your mind-body connection.

  • Breathing exercises
    • breathe in as slowly and deeply as you can through your nose
    • breathe out slowly through your mouth
    • some people find it helpful to count steadily from one to five on each in-breath and each out-breath
    • close your eyes and focus on your breathing
  • Regular Exercise
  • Mindful eating
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol may also help curb panic symptoms

Treating Panic Disorder with Ketamine Infusion

Traditional methods of treating panic disorder include anti-depressant prescriptions and talk therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy. Typically SSRIs are prescribed for panic disorder. However, a 2018 study found that only 1 out of 7 people treated for panic disorder with SSRIs received relief from their symptoms. 

Current research suggests that the positive effects antidepressants have on the brain are due to their slow interaction with the neurotransmitter glutamate. You can think of glutamate as a traffic director for your brain and neural growth. When it is appropriately excited, this neurotransmitter can trigger new synapses to form. These synapses give your brain more opportunity to use other neurotransmitters associated with mood.

Although antidepressants have come a long way, the primary issue is that they work on glutamate indirectly. Modern antidepressants work through serotonin, norepinephrine, or a combination. For many people, these are dead ends. 

Ketamine, on the other hand, almost indiscriminately works directly on glutamate found outside of neural cells. Many scientists are still working hard to understand precisely how and why ketamine works on the brain the way it does. But the bottom line, for now, is that 75% of patients see rapid, short-term relief from their symptoms, with most seeing long-term relief after several sessions of ketamine treatment. Contact us today to learn more.

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