Men's Articles

Panic Attacks

You're out of breath. Your heart feels like it's in a vise. You think you're dying. Perhaps not... It could be a panic attack. If you're in your 20s, easily- depressed and trying to cope with a stressful job, or painful relationship, you could suddenly feel so physically- ill that you think you're having a heart attack.

Panic attacks often occur when people are feeling completely okay. They are sitting around, walking down the street, or may be sound asleep. Then, all of a sudden, they get this crescendo of physical sensations and fear. It peaks abruptly, usually within four minutes, and is usually gone by 10 minutes, but people may be left shaken for some time after a panic attack.

Women are twice as likely to get panic attacks as men. If you are lucky, after the first, you may never have another. However, some people get repeated panic attacks and end up with a condition medically known as panic disorder. Doctors think an imbalance of the brain chemical serotonin makes some women more prone to panic attacks. It seems to strike the more jumpy types, or women who feel their lives are out of control, homemakers in particular.

Your doctor might misdiagnose the condition and think you're a hypochondriac. One of the consequences of having repeated panic attacks is developing irrational fears. After repeated panic attacks, people become chronically worried. They stare to feel, `If I am going to get a panic attack, I must make sure that I'm in a situation where I can get help. I know there are some situations where I won't be able to get help quickly and so I will avoid them."

If your first panic attack was on a bus or out shopping, you may develop a phobia about these situations and try to avoid them, and you may also start to avoid situations in which you have never had a panic attack.

Is There Any Stress Medication Available That I Can Take?

There is a variety of medication available that can effectively treat stress and panic, says consultant psychiatrist Dr Adrian Wang. He says that tranquillizers are often prescribed for short-term relief of stress symptoms, while anti-depressants are used to prevent future stress and anxiety attacks. He adds: "Bear in mind that tranquillizers may be addictive if taken long-term, so they need to be tapered off eventually. " Anti-depressants are generally not addictive. The best outcome relies on a combination of medication and counselling, says Dr Wang.

He explains: "Just relying on tranquillizers - which are fast-acting but potentially addictive- may be an initial quick-fix. But counselling is necessary to develop the skills required to handle the stress and anxiety-related symptoms. "Cognitive therapy is a technique often used. Patients learn to accurately appraise their symptoms and re-frame.


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