Afrikaans English
Panic Attack and Panic Disorder
Important!
If a person suspects that he / she or a loved one is suffering from panic attack and panic disorder, it is important to remember that the condition is treatable and seek the help of a professional as soon as possible.

PANIC ATTACKS

What is a panic attack?

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack on its own is not a disorder, but is associated with anxiety or other psychological disorders (eg depression, post-traumatic stress or substance abuse disorder) and / or medical conditions (eg heart condition, breathing problems, etc.). ).

A panic attack is a rapid and intense increase in fear or discomfort that makes someone feel as if they are having a heart attack, losing control, or even dying. There are also a certain number of physical and cognitive symptoms that can occur during this period. These symptoms are described in more detail below.

Important
Note that an official diagnosis may only be made by a qualified person.

symptoms

What are the symptoms of a panic attack?

The following symptoms are an indication, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – 5), accepted worldwide as the most authoritative source:

Did you know?
These sudden reactions can occur from a calm or anxious state.
  1. A panic attack is a sudden and intense fear or discomfort that culminates within minutes and during which at least four of the following:
    1. palpitations, feeling of a throbbing heart or accelerated heart rate
    2. sweet
    3. trembling or jerking
    4. shortness of breath or a feeling of suffocation
    5. feeling of suffocation
    6. chest pain or discomfort
    7. nausea or abdominal discomfort
    8. feeling dizzy, unsteady on feet, light-headed or faint
    9. cold shivers or heat sensation
    10. numbness or tingling sensation
    11. sense of unreality or being "detached from yourself"
    12. fear of losing control or going crazy
    13. fear of dying

Therapy

Treatment of panic attacks

  1. Why is it necessary to treat panic attacks?
    Panic attacks can have a very limiting effect on one's quality of life and / or functioning. This is usually an indication that there is another disorder or problem in the person. It is essential to find out why the panic attack happened, so deciding how to treat it.
  2. How are panic attacks treated?
    1. Medical research
      A full medical examination (which may include blood tests) by a general practitioner is needed to determine if the panic attack is related to any medical conditions.
    2. Psychological examination and therapy
      If there is no medical cause for the panic attack, or if the symptoms occur in excess of the medical condition, the next step will be to make an appointment with a registered psychologist. During the first session, the symptoms will be discussed in detail and further recommendations made. Psychotherapy is usually needed to treat panic attacks (and any other disorders that may be associated with it) in the long term.
    3. Medication
      If medication is needed, the psychologist will be able to make a referral to a psychiatrist who can prescribe the necessary medication.
    4. Support groups
      Support groups are always very valuable as they give you the opportunity to learn from others who share similar experiences and challenges. Group members also support each other and the feeling that there are other people who understand what one is going through. Unfortunately, there is not always an active group in one's immediate environment. Online searches can help determine what's available. More information can be found on the SADAG website found.
Remember!
If there is no support group in your area, this may give you an opportunity to start your own group!

Panic Attack Help

What do I do if I have a panic attack?

  1. Try to sit in a safe place.
  2. Focus your attention on something on the ground eg. a tile, flower, brick, etc.
  3. Talk to yourself about what you see on the ground, focus on the detail.
  4. Try to bring your breathing to the point where it is slower and deeper. To get it right, for example, you can count: a thousand-and-a-thousand, a thousand-and-two, etc. and / or use a paper or plastic bag, which can focus your attention on the air you breathe in and out.
  5. Ask as soon as possible for support from someone you can trust. Make an appointment with your medical practitioner to begin the investigation.

Self-management

What can I do to ease my stress?

Stress and anxiety can play a role in triggering panic attacks. Here are some practical tips to help you relieve your stress.

  1. Avoid or reduce alcohol, caffeine, smoking and drugs. These drugs can trigger panic attacks or aggravate symptoms.
  2. Exercise regularly to reduce tension.
  3. Get enough sleep.
  4. Learn and apply stress management techniques.
  5. Stick to your treatment plan.

Support

How do I support someone with a panic attack?

  1. Encourage the person to seek professional help.
  2. If the person becomes discouraged, encourage him / her to discuss their experience with their physician and psychologist, and to stick to their treatment plan.
  3. Encourage healthy lifestyle choices, e.g. regular physical exercise, enough sleep, a balanced diet and healthy relaxation.
  4. Take a good look at yourself, as it can be exhausting to fulfill the support role. However, it is very important for the diagnosed person to take responsibility for their own symptoms and treatment.
Important!
A person does not choose to have panic attacks. It is not a random reaction. Support and understanding without condemnation can mean a lot to a diagnosed person.

PANIC DISORDER

What is Panic Disorder?

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is diagnosed when repeated panic attacks, which have no prominent triggers, occur. Panic attacks appear out of the blue and are not associated with any clear danger signs such as social situations or elements of an experienced trauma.

Did you know?
According to a international study is the average age at which panic disorder begins 32 years. It was also found that 80,4% of people with lifelong panic disorder also have a lifelong other (comorbid) psychological disorder.

symptoms

What are the symptoms of panic disorder?

The following symptoms are indicative, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – 5), accepted worldwide as the most authoritative source:

Important
Note that an official diagnosis may only be made by a qualified person.
  1. repeated, unexpected panic attacks (see description of panic attacks);
  2. at least one of the attacks was followed by (at least) one month of one or both of the following:
    1. a continuing concern about panic attacks or their consequences (eg, loss of control, heart attack, "going crazy"); and / or
    2. a significant change in behavior related to the panic attacks (eg to avoid exercise or strange places);
  3. the disorder is not related to the physical effect of a drug or other medical condition; and
  4. the disorder is not better explained by another psychological condition.
Therapy

Treatment of panic disorder

  1. Why is it necessary to treat panic disorder?
    Panic disorder can have a very limiting effect on one's quality of life and / or functioning and is usually not something that goes away or improves on its own. Therefore, it is better to call for professional help as soon as possible.
  2. How is panic disorder treated?
    Panic disorder can have a very limiting effect on one's quality of life and / or functioning and is usually not something that goes away or improves on its own. Therefore, it is better to call for professional help as soon as possible.
    1. Medical research
      A full medical examination (which may include blood tests) by a general practitioner is needed to determine if the panic attack / symptoms are related to any medical conditions.
    2. Psychological examination and therapy
      If there is no medical cause for the symptoms or if the symptoms are excessive in relation to the medical condition, the next step will be to make an appointment with a registered psychologist. During the first session the symptoms will be discussed in detail and further recommendations made. Psychotherapy is usually an effective way to treat panic disorder in the long term.
    3. Medication
      Often medication is needed, and for this the psychologist can refer the person to a psychiatrist, who can then do a full assessment and recommend and prescribe appropriate medication (if needed).
    4. Support groups
      Support groups are always very valuable as they give you the opportunity to learn from others who share similar experiences and challenges. Group members also support each other and the feeling that there are other people who understand what a person is going through. Unfortunately, there is not always an active group in one's environment. Online searches can help determine what's available. More information can be found on the SADAG website found.
Remember!
If there is no support group in your area, this may give you an opportunity to start your own group!

Support

How can I support someone with panic disorder?

  1. Encourage the person to seek professional help;
  2. If the person becomes discouraged, encourage them to discuss their experience with their physician psychologist and stick to their treatment plan;
  3. Encourage healthy lifestyle choices, e.g. regular physical exercise, enough sleep, a balanced diet and healthy relaxation; and
  4. Learn and apply stress management techniques; and
  5. Stick to your treatment plan.
  6. Take a good look at yourself, as it can be exhausting to fulfill the support role. However, it is very important for the diagnosed person to take responsibility for their own symptoms and treatment.

SELF-MANAGEMENT

Panic Attack and Panic Disorder

  1. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking and drugs (it can speed up panic attacks or aggravate symptoms);
  2. Exercise regularly to reduce tension;
  3. Get enough sleep;
  4. Learn and apply stress management techniques; and
  5. Stick to your treatment plan.

  • RSG Potgooi

    RSG Potgooi

    Are your fears about the future currently taking over your life? Are you more tense than ever before? We look at realistic and unrealistic fears, how to distinguish between the two, and why it matters.

EMERGENCY MEASURES

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health problems, we suggest the following options:
  1. call your GP (if available);
  2. go to your nearest hospital emergency room;
  3. call one of the following emergency numbers: SADAG (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group) 24-hour helpline: 0800 12 13 14 or suicide crisis line: 0800 567 567; or
  4. contact Wie is ek?