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Something that has always struck me as interesting about psychological disorders is that they can be “co-morbid” or related to each other. It’s not always the same way having high cholesterol is related to having a heart attack, but the relation with psychological disorders sometimes occur side by side.

Perfectly Panic Free

I can’t explain it very well, but I learned about it from ‘Perfectly Panic Free,’ an eBook about panic disorder written by Mike Karowski. He explained co-morbidity among psychological disorders, how they can be connected to each other through characteristics.

3984084840 ced49e8f06 Review of Perfectly Panic Free

Panic attack, PANIC Disorder—Holly Ford Brown (Flickr.com)

As I learned about panic disorder, I did think it was fascinating that there were several other psychological disorders co-morbid to it. Since some of you have written to me asking for more details on the book, I thought this would be a good place to start.

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that can be detrimental to the person suffering from it. In extreme cases, people no longer leave the house for fear of another panic attack. According to the book, stressors like traumatic events, life changes, psychological factors, and physical illness can trigger the initial attack, which can later on manifest into more attacks and fear of having more attacks.

The psychological factors which are related to panic disorders are stress, trauma, and fear. The combination of these factors can lead to anxiety. When the anxiety is exacerbated to the point that the person is anxious everyday, panic attacks can occur.

This is why panic disorder is co-morbid or greatly related to the other anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, phobias (can be seen in how people with panic disorder try to avoid certain situations), post-traumatic stress disorder (sometimes occurs before the panic attacks), obsessive compulsive disorder, and agoraphobia (fear of not being able to escape a situation.)

Sometimes these anxiety disorders occur before panic attacks, and sometimes they are developed after panic disorder. Apart from these disorders, however, there are other psychological disorders that are co-morbid to panic disorder. For example, long term substance abuse (both alcohol and psychoactive drugs) can cause panic disorder (especially during withdrawal periods) because of a change in brain chemistry and function. Other than that, depression and certain personality disorders can be co-morbid to panic disorder.

From these sentences alone, you can see how panic disorder can actually be a signal for underlying problems, or can lead to further problems. This is why it has to be addressed and treated as soon as can be.

I don’t know if I did a very good job of explaining everything, but for more information on panic disorder, the other psychological disorders co-morbid or related to it, and all of your options for treatment, check out Perfectly Panic Free.  The information is presented in a clear and easy to read format, and you’re sure to find the answers you’re looking for!

This article gives a good overview of some panic attack treatments. Its fairly basic, but for any anxiety attack sufferer it lets you know the mainstream “solutions” you will encounter. Sadly none will be guaranteed to work, as with any mental health treatments.

1220241277 080ed6af54 m Panic Attacks Treatment

Relaxation—m khajoo (Flickr.com)

Panic Attacks Treatment

by Beth O’Connor

What are Panic Attacks?

An anxiety or panic attack describes what happens to you when fear or anxiety overwhelms you. People react in different ways and to varying extents, but it tends to cause your heart to beat fast, your breathing to increase and for you to feel, sick, dizzy or that you are losing control.

What is the Problem with them?

The frequency of panic attacks can vary from person to person, as can their intensity. But as a general rule, if left unchecked, they will at the very least stay the same and in the worst cases, completely spiral out of control. So it’s important to treat your panic attacks before they start to take over your life or worse, morph into a more serious condition such as depression or OCD.

In this article, I will discuss the latest panic attack treatments currently on the market so you can decide which is best for you to give you the right coping mechanisms so that you can take back control of your life.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT has been a very effective treatment for many people. It is an area of science in its own right and basically deals with changing the way you think through a series of therapy sessions, negative thought processes are identified and the subject is then taught to think of them in a different way. Eventually, the patient will develop a series of coping mechanisms to rationalize an attack as or before it strikes. [click to continue…]

This is a good “how to” video dealing with panic attacks

Some folk can be very blase or dismisive of panic attacks – until they have one! This news item is typical of that, but does raise some interesting issues.

Panic Attack: What Happened to Me?

“About 3 million people have full blown panic attacks, which makes this a relatively common disorder. One of the most challenging issues with panic attacks is the intense emotional fear that accompanies them. The experience is so intense it often causes …”
http://www.empowher.com/anxiety/content/panic-attack-what-happened-me

The author of this article – a medic – goes on to say that the medical community is not sure what causes panic attacks. however, certain factors or events may increase you vulnerability to panic attacks:-

Significant stressful events can trigger or worsen panic attacks such as death of a loved one, getting married, starting a new job or business venture or addition of child to the family.

What do you think – is the good doctor correct here. I agree up to a point, but feel the medical community has a greater grip on why people get panic attacks than she suggests.

bison Anxiety Panic Attack Symptoms
The phrases “panic attack” and “anxiety attack” are virtually interchangeable. Whilst the word panic sums up more vividly what people experience, the word anxiety is a more accurate reflection of what is happening to our body. Unfortunately, as everyone get anxious at times, to say you’re having an anxiety attack isn’t going to get much sympathy!

Anxiety Attack Symptoms

But its useful to stick with anxiety to understand what is actually happening to our body.  Believe it or not, the anxiety symptoms we all experience are part of the bodies defence system.  Its what is know as “fight or fight”, getting ready to deal with threats.

Going back a few thousand years, when humans first roamed the earth, life was a bit more simple. But also more dangerous – man was as likely to be a prey as a hunter.  If danger was spotted – and the brain received that message – then there were two simple options:-

1) Fight that danger

2) Run away!!!  (or Flight)

If you think about it, if you do either of these actions your body if working in the same way.  It will be moving fast at in  heightened state of arousal. It will need to make full use of its arms and legs, whilst not want to waste energy or non important factors (such as processing the last meal in the stomach).

You can probably see where I am heading, but lets not rush ahead (this blog is never going to be about rushing!).

Lets just reiterate what happened to the body to trigger this fight or flight response.

Danger >  Message to Brain >  Prepares  to Fight or Fight Danger

Now, in modern life we can relate to this if we think about how we would react if confronted with a real physical danger.  If walking down the street and we really did see a charging bull (or bison) heading towards us, we wouldn’t just stand and stare! Without making a conscious decision we would run to safety. Once safe we would be aware of our pounding heart, fast breathing, sweat pouring off us, heightened sense of arousal….

Now I’m starting to hint at how  anxiety panic attack symptoms are legacies of the bodies basic fight or flight response system. I’m sure you’d agree, the fight or flight system is necessary for whenever we encounter real dangers. But, I can hear you say, I can’t remember the last time my life was threatened this way – we don’t get many wild bulls!

I get sleep panic attacks – why?!

Unfortunately, whilst our life styles have evolved dramatically since the days when wild animals were a constant threat to our existence, our brains have not.  When the brain gets the message “Danger” it react the same way – whether the danger is real or something we perceive as threatening in some way. [click to continue…]

panic Sleep Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are frightening. Those of you lucky enough never to have suffered cannot imaging the unpredictable bouts of terror that grip people when they suffer a panic attack.  Sleep panic attacks are when the attacks start when you are asleep

Symptoms can vary but most common are a pounding heart, churning stomach, breath coming in short gasps, tense muscles and sweating profusely. The sort of symptoms you would expect to experience if about to go into battle – not when queuing up in a supermarket.

There is a strong  desire to escape – even though you don’t know what you are running from.  You feel everyone is looking at you, that this panic will cause you to collapse and die.

Sleep Panic Attacks

What is worse when you wake up to these symptoms. In the darkness of your bedroom you are roused from sleep by this grip of terror.  The disorientation of waking up, unsure where you are and what is happening compound the already dreadful affect of a panic attack.

Overcome Panic Attacks

The first thing to grasp is that whilst extreme, these reactions of your body are normal. People don’t die from panic attacks. Ironically your body is trying to help you – more of that to come.

The second principle – easier said than done – is to try and ride out the panic and not run from it. You body thinks that something dangerous is happening, by running you are reinforcing that you are in danger.

The most common advice for overcoming panic attacks is;-

1) Distract yourself. Take your mind away from what is happening to your body and allow the panic to subside.

2) Positive self talk. If you know the panic attack will fade and you can cope, try to get your self talk to tell you so. Again, easier said than done.

3) Breathing slowly. One problem that occurs, particularly with sleep panic attacks, is are lungs have become full.  We haven’t breathed out properly, probably by over breathing. Consequently when you try to breathe in, you cannot. This is an awful feeling.

The other issue with breathing is your balance of oxygen to carbon dioxide in the body gets out of kilter, leading to the feelings of dizziness.

Getting your breathing back into a slow steady rhythm will help – not least as it will distract you as well.  The most common advice is to breath in and out of a paper bag – or your cupped hands if no bag is available.

4) Relaxation. This is a stage beyond steady breathing and will be a post in itself. Learning to relax is an important, useful skill – even if you don’t suffer sleep panic attacks. [click to continue…]

panic Anxiety Panic Attack Symptoms part 2

In the last post we touched on some of the symptoms experienced by panic attack sufferers, and why we suffer from anxiety in the first place. Remember, the root of anxiety symptoms is the fight or flight response.

Heart & Breathing

So in anticipation of increased exertion, the heart beats faster to pump blood – carrying oxygen – around the body. With this increase in blood pressure your breathing also increases in readiness for more muscular effort.

Muscles

Muscles may feel “tingly” and arms and legs may shake as they prepare to fight or run. Sometime people describe “jelly legs”.  Picture athletes preparing to run the 100 metres at the Olympics – their muscles are equally ready.

Sweat

Sweat can serve two functions. It can help cool the body and help the hands and feet grip better (bearing in mind this defence system developed before modern materials made sweaty hands a liability!). I’ve also read that sweat can be an aroma to repel attackers.

Stomach

As I touched on before, the body is usually digesting the last meal you consumed.  But in times of arousal, the fight or flight response diverts blood away from the stomach to the peripheral muscles such as the arms and legs. Consequently you can suffer “butterflies” in the stomach or feel the urge to vomit. [click to continue…]

spider Panic Attacks that become Phobias A phobia is a state of high anxiety (not just a panic attack) that is linked to some trigger. Its usually defined as an “intense, irrational fear of an object, situation or person.” The fear leads to avoidance, or minimal contact, with whatever causes the fear.

It’s not uncommon to have fears, such as of spiders or heights. Sometimes these can be quite intense; for some reason my sister has a strong fear of snakes that would mean avoiding them on a trip to the zoo! Fortunately for her a “snake phobia” isn’t a particularly disabling anxiety problem in a big city.

Sometimes we may become so fearful that even just thinking about the feared situation can result in strong feelings of panic. Consequently we avoid anything to do with the situation. Avoidance can lead to a restricted, dysfunctional lifestyle. Knowing you cannot do something can further undermine confidence in other situations.

For example if you have a panic attack in a supermarket, you may start avoiding that particular shop for fear of a repeat. Then your confidence slips going into any supermarket. This soon extends to large shops where there is some distance from the door. We fear what might happen, as much as what already has. A phobia of supermarkets can extend into a phobia of shops generally. Its all too easy for this spiral of avoidance to continue, gradually eating away into your functional life.

The sad thing about phobias and anxiety, sleep panic attacks and panic in general is that people trying to help us end up making things worse. After having a panic attack in the middle of Sainsbury’s, my husband volunteered to do the weekly shopping – to help me (bless him). Unfortunately that helped reinforce in my brain that big shops were “bad, dangerous places”. What I should have done was face that fear and nip it in the bud.

The most common phobias are:-

Agoraphobia

Referred generally to being out of the home, but more specifically fear of being away from our “safe place” – which can be broader (a town) or narrower (a room) than home.

Claustrophobia

Fear of enclosed spaces, such as lifts and (in my case) trains.

Social phobia

Fear of any social situation. Basically anything that involves contact with people.

These are the ones you are most likely to have heard of, but a phobia can develop about anything. What is common with all phobias is that those suffering can see that they are irrational and illogical – but driven by a genuine fear of having another panic attack.

photo by Kilarin on flickr