Have you ever experienced random panic attacks? What do they feel like for you? Generally, a panic attack is a burst of anxiety that you may experience out of the blue. For some individuals, this may happen once in a blue moon, whereas for others, it can be as frequent as everyday occurrences leading to a panic disorder. These are typically very overwhelming and difficult to manage.
The fear is intense and can be felt as physical symptoms across your body. The most common symptoms include a racing heart, shortness of breath, sweating, fear of dying, and uncontrollable spiral of thoughts. Generally, we experience random panic attacks. When these attacks have a specific trigger, it is easier to manage the symptoms and look for treatment. However, when there is no specific trigger, the person can be left confused and in a pool of fear.
What Are Random Panic Attacks? What Causes Them?
As the name suggests, random panic attacks don't have a fixed freuency or duration. They can be experienced at any point of the day and in any context. Additionally, they can also range in duration between a few seconds to many minutes. It is generally beneficial for both you and your mental health professional to identify the risk factors or potential triggers. This may not cure your panic attacks, but you will feel much more in control.
In consultation with a general physician, you are likely to find a genetic contributor to anxiety and panic attacks. Anxiety is one of the common conditions with a hereditary component. However, this may not always be the case. They may also ask your family history of mental illness.
One of the biggest influences in the recurrence of panic attacks is our thought loop. When our brain registers something as a trigger, it influences our bodily sensations. This leads to an endless worry or panic cycle. The moment your brain notices a bodily sensation, it initiates the fight-or-flight response and your thoughts spiral into thinking about the worst case scenarios.
Stimulants like caffeine or recreational drugs can contribute to the development of random panic attacks. However, this is a correlation and don't form a causal relationship. This means that coffee won't cause a panic attack.
Treatment for Random Panic Attacks at Night: What Can You Do about the Bouts of Anxiety?
It is important to curate your own random panic attacks survival guide. Random panic attacks at night can especially be scary. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of these attacks are that they take away your sense of autonomy or control. However, by equipping yourself with tools, you can regain control at least temporarily.
One of the most powerful tools for dealing with panic attacks is breathing. Yes, believe it or not, when you panic or feel anxious, your breath becomes short and rapid. This signals your brain to think that you are in danger. However, when you breathe deeply, your brain initiates the parasympathetic response. Breathing also stmiluates the vagus nerve, which controls your mood and anxiety.
Generally, panic attacks don't go away on their own and require professional assitance and support. A mental health professional helps you keep a track of your thoughts, emotions, and triggers. They also assist in educating you about your condition and enhance your control over your nervous system.
Some patients also benefit keeping a journal to track anxiety. For most of us, night time becomes a never ending black hole of thoughts. During the day, you may remain distracted, but as you become less occupied, the fear returns.
Whether you are aware or not of your triggers, it is important to seek the help of a mental health professional to help you manage your symptoms. Based on the nature of your symptoms, you may have to seek different mental health professionals. Generally, a combination of CBT and medication can enhance your efficacy in dealing with random panic attacks.
If you feel like you are at an immediate risk, it is best to reach out to a emergency help line. A mental health professional can, in the long run, help you identify your triggers of random panic attacks and assist you in learning strategies that work for you.
Janvi Kapur is a counselor with a master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.
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