A middle-aged man is at work and experiencing the normal amount of stress of a typical day. His boss comes to give him a new assignment. As soon as the boss leaves, the man’s heart begins to pound excessively. His breathing increases dramatically. He needs fresh air and goes for a walk only finding that he has little or no control over these symptoms. This increases his anxiety all the more which increases the severity of these symptoms.
A young lady is driving in her car to work. She usually leaves home early to avoid traffic. However, on this particular occasion she found it harder getting out of the house and now she is on the interstate at the heart of rush hour. As cars cut in front of her and she sees other cars closing in on her bumper, she begins to sweat. There’s a tightness in her chest, her hands feel numb and she is having difficulty both breathing and focusing. It gets so bad she pulls over to the side of the shoulder of the road because she can no longer drive safely.
People who have experienced panic attacks are very familiar with these symptoms. They may also find that these triggers are similar to the stressful situations that serve as “setting events” to these attacks. People suffering from panic attacks also tend to experience confusion, embarrassment and a feeling of dread regarding their future. Many panic attacks are so severe that people experiencing them often believe that they are having a heart attack, stroke or, even, dying. Many times, people with these symptoms will visit an emergency room with these symptoms only to be told, after testing, that there is no medical cause of their symptoms. They are then referred to a behavioral health professional such as those at Thriveworks Franklin.
Prevalence of Panic Attacks
Reports from a study conducted in Europe state that approximately 3% of that population has at least one panic attack in any given year. Similar studies in the United States report that panic attacks affect about 11% of the population. Studies also report that, while these attacks are more common in females than males, they still occur in both genders. A panic disorder as a life-long condition is estimated in 2% to 6% of Americans. Of these cases, about 45% are diagnosed as “severe”. Panic disorder often coexists with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. A diagnosis of a mood disorder often follows the onset of panic attacks. A number of studies using identical twins as subjects have found that when one twin has an anxiety disorder, there is a 31% to 88% incidence of that disorder with the other twin.
Signs and Symptoms of Panic Attacks
People suffering from a panic attack may experience an array of symptoms that may include:
- Tightness in the chest with possible heart palpitations;
- Flashing vision;
- Feeling faint, dizzy with possible vertigo;
- Numbness or tingling sensations at various parts of the body;
- Dizziness with possible vertigo;
- Feeling nauseated;
- Heavy breathing and possibly hyperventilation;
- Excessive sweating;
- Lack of coordination or body control;
- An urge to escape or flee the present location; and
- Tunnel vision mostly due to blood flow leaving the head to other parts of the body.
Causes of Panic Attacks
Although panic attacks can occur at any age, their onset is most likely to occur in early adulthood. It is also more likely to occur with individuals of above average intelligence. Other factors influencing the occurrence of a panic disorder include:
- A hyper-awareness of possible environmental hazards;
- Cumulative stress experienced over time;
- Biological diseases or syndromes;
- Excessive use of drugs;
- Pre-existing phobias;
- Significant loss or sudden life change;
- Association of certain places or events with past traumas
How to Get Help
The clinicians at Thriveworks Franklin are trained professionals who can help the individual suffering from panic attacks to manage their anxiety and work to prevent panic attacks. The counselors and therapists at Thriveworks Franklin understand the desperation one feels from the embarrassment and helplessness often associated with these attacks. Panic attacks can affect your relationships, your work, and your social life. For this reason, Thriveworks does not have waiting lists. Appointments are often available within 24 hours for new clients. So, call Thriveworks Franklin at 617-360-7210 today. Don’t suffer in silence any longer.
American Psychiatric Association (2013), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing, pp. 214–217, 938,
Bourne, E. (2005). The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, 4th Edition: New Harbinger Press
Kessler, R.C., Chiu, W.T, Jin, R., Meron-Ruscio, A., Shear, K. and Walters, E.E. The epidemiology of panic attacks, panic disorder, and agoraphobia in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006 Apr; 63(4): 415–424.