Panic attacks

About panic attacks

Panic attacks are common. Many people experience a panic attack once or twice in their lifetime, consciously or unconsciously. The problem usually disappears when a stressful period has ended.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a short period of extreme anxiety that starts suddenly and is accompanied by physical symptoms, even when there is no real danger or obvious cause. The panic attacks last only a short time, but are very intense and exhausting. In the end a panic attack always goes away.

Most people recover from panic attacks without treatment, but some develop panic disorder. In case of a panic disorder, you have recurrent, unpredictable panic attacks, you are anxious about the next panic attack, and you change your behavior to prevent a panic attack.

The frequency of panic attacks can vary widely. Some people have weekly or even daily attacks during an extended period of time. Other people may have a few attacks a day and then not have a single panic attack for weeks or months.

Panic attacks are often associated with the anxiety disorder agoraphobia. Agoraphobia in panic attacks refers to the fear of certain places where the panic attack can occur, such as crowded squares, public transport, the elevator, standing in line, etc. The fear can make you avoid certain places and situations. The fear and avoidance arise from the assumption that it is hard to escape or help might not be available when you have panic symptoms.

Symptoms of a panic attack

During a panic attack, you suddenly have extreme feelings of anxiety, which involve severe physical reactions. You get dizzy, you get palpitations, you sweat or your breathing is irregular. You don’t know what happens to you. You feel like you’re losing control of your body and mind, you’re afraid you’re going to pass out, or you think you’re going to have a heart attack.

In addition to the anxiety, the symptoms are different for everyone. Common physical and mental signs of a panic attack include:

  • chest pain or discomfort;
  • dizziness or faintness;
  • fear of dying;
  • fear of losing control;
  • hot flashes or chills;
  • nausea, abdominal distress;
  • numbness or tingling in the fingers;
  • palpitations or accelerated heart rate;
  • shortness of breath or hyperventilation;
  • sweating;
  • trembling or shaking.

Because a panic attack can cause severe physical symptoms, you may think you have serious health problems. For example, a panic attack can feel like a heart attack. In general, the fear and the severe symptoms are disproportionate to the danger of the situation.

Cause of panic attacks

The development of a panic disorder is often not entirely clear, it is usually a combination of risk factors. Hereditary or environmental factors may increase the risk of developing it.

Women are more likely to develop panic disorder than men. And if depression or panic disorder runs in your family, you have a higher risk to be vulnerable to developing panic disorder as well.

Negative or traumatic childhood experiences can also increase the risk of a later anxiety disorder. Examples include neglect, the death of a parent or alcohol abuse in the family.

However, long-term stress in adulthood, such as divorce, job loss or the death of a family member, can also contribute to the development of panic disorder.

Consequences of panic attacks

If you have a panic disorder, it usually has huge consequences. You are often unable to do your job well or even lose your job, you can’t maintain your social contacts or you get relationship or family problems.

Because a panic attack is very frightening, you usually avoid the places and situations where you have had an experience of anxiety. The tendency to avoid anxious feelings is understandable. But the more you avoid, the greater the anxiety increases and the more your daily life can be affected. You become isolated and you can get lonely.

Treatment of panic attacks

Don’t think too easily that a panic disorder will go away on its own. Therefore, seek help in time if you suffer from a panic disorder. Treating your symptoms becomes more difficult the longer you wait and the duration of the treatment will increase.

During the treatment we analyse why you suffer from panic attacks and we teach you how to recognize physical reactions to your fears. The goal of the treatment is that your panic attacks and your avoidance behavior decrease or disappear, and that you can enjoy life again.

Please read our Panic attacks treatment page, if you would like to know how we can help you with your feelings of anxiety.

Contact Psychologen Amsterdam

Do you recognize your symptoms and do you need help or do you just have a question about the treatment of your panic attacks? Call for an appointment or send a message to practice Psychologen Amsterdam.

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Our specialists in the field of Panic attacks

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We are here to help you. Also in these times!

What do we offer?

A safe and trusted place for therapy in Amsterdam

A warm welcome from our founder Anouk Taytelbaum.
We are here to help you. Also in these times!

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No waiting list

We offer direct availability

Blended Care

Our effective eHealth approach!

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System therapy:
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Anger & misunderstanding? Sometimes you are so stuck in negative patterns that you can’t work it out together anymore

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