Sleep Panic Attacks
In discussing sleep panic attacks, its hard to get away from some of the overwhelming statistics about panic attacks generally. Almost two percent of adult Americans, or three million people, will have panic disorder at some time in their lives.
Panic disorder is a serious health problem and is very different from other types of anxiety. Panic attacks are sudden, appear to be unprovoked, and are often disabling. If you have panic disorder, you may feel suddenly terrified for no reason. As I have discussed elsewhere, during a panic attack, you also have scary physical feelings like a fast heartbeat, trouble breathing, or dizziness. Some people believe they are having a heart attack.
Sleep panic attacks can also happen at any time and any place without warning – what differentiates them is you happen to be asleep when they happen! Many people with panic disorder develop intense anxiety between episodes. It is not unusual for a person with panic disorder to develop phobias about places or situations where panic attacks have occurred, such as in supermarkets or other everyday situations.
Panic attacks often begin when people are young adults, around 18 to 24 years old. Sometimes they start when a person is under a lot of stress, for example after the death of a loved one or after having a baby. Anyone can have panic disorder, but more women than men have the illness. It sometimes runs in families.
It is extremely important for a person suffering from sleep panic attacks, or any panic disorder, to understand that help is available. Tragically, many people with sleep panic disorder do not seek or receive treatment. The physical toll this takes adds to the problem.
I have discussed phobias before, but wanted to focus here on agoraphobia.
The fear of travelling is the common definition of agoraphobia.
This can be a serious condition in which a person isn’t able to leave the home at all or it can be a mild disorder in which a person can’t travel more than a few hours away from home. When a person attempts to go beyond what is considered their ‘safe” boundaries then they go into an agoraphobia panic attack.
Family and friends are the best people to help a person through this process. To the sufferers themselves an agoraphobia panic attack is very frustrating. This is because an agoraphobic attack is often less rational than the typical panic attacks.
A fear of public places, especially those where there is a large gathering of people such as a supermarket can develop from a social anxiety. An individual who suffers from general panic disorders can become embarrassed of their disorder, which can then cause a fear of traveling and suffering a panic attack in public.
The only way for a person to overcome these attacks is to push their limits, which makes treatment of agoraphobia panic attack difficult. Since all an individual has to do is stay within their ‘safe” zone they tend to ignore their agoraphobic problem. That, to some extent is what I did.
Whilst I came to dread my sleep panic attacks, as I had no control over them, I could live with my agoraphobia. By not going out, I didn’t suffer. With a supportive family, they would do things like go to the supermarket for me.
Unfortunately, this was the worst way to tackle the problem. My agoraphobia became more entrenched and as well as trains and big shops, I started avoiding meeting friends for coffee, or collecting the children from school.
Little by little, agoraphobia can be overcome. It takes time and a lot of patience. But first, you have to conquer your belief that a panic attack is going to lead to a heart attack, or worse. And, as I discuss in my review of panic away, this can be easy once you know how.