Panic disorder is often characterized by unexpected, frequent panic attacks. It is also associated with anxiety, dread, and fear of having another panic attack. This mental health condition is often misunderstood. The best way to educate yourself about it is to talk to the best online doctors or therapists. You must have heard people mistakenly considering their normal feelings of nervousness as “panic attacks.” This is not true at all. Even the media often associates anxiety with being too sensitive or weak.
Around 4.7 percent of adults in the United States experience panic disorder at least once in their lifetime. But it is essential to get familiar with what’s true and what’s just a myth. Individuals with anxiety disorders can experience panic attacks. Even individuals who do not have anxiety or panic disorder can also experience a panic attack. Some specific anxiety triggers or stressful situations can cause this panic attack. So, it’s important to debunk the various myths surrounding panic disorders to get rid of all the confusion. Let’s debunk some of the most common myths about panic disorders.
Myth 1. There no Difference Between Panic Attacks And Anxiety
Many people believe that panic attacks and anxiety are the same. But that’s not true. In fact, a person can experience panic attacks without any triggers such as anxiety. During anxiety, you may experience the feeling of uneasiness and nervousness. It can be a bit overwhelming. Nearly everyone experiences anxiety once in their life. This could occur because of work, school, or when someone is making a big decision. But it does not mean that anxiety will cause panic attacks as well.
Panic attacks are caused due to panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder. Not all anxiety disorders cause panic attacks. But what is an anxiety disorder? When anxiety gets worse over time and becomes uncontrollable, it begins to interfere with day-to-day activities. This is classified as an anxiety disorder. Now, panic attacks can occur unexpectedly, or certain situations can trigger them.
The symptoms of panic attacks can be severe. And the person experiencing one may feel like having an actual heart attack. Individuals who experience panic attacks may start worrying excessively about any future attacks. Hence, they start avoiding situations and places that they think may trigger a panic attack.
Myth 2. Panic Attacks Can Lead to Extreme Harm
Symptoms associated with panic and anxiety can be frightening. These may include trembling, sweating, shaking, and accelerated heart rate. All these symptoms can be terrible for the person experiencing a panic attack. And sometimes people mistakenly associate these symptoms with a heart attack. Some more symptoms of panic attacks are –
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach cramps
- Chest pain
- Feelings of detachment from reality
- Choking sensation
- Hot flashes or chills
- Stong dear of losing control
- Sense of impending danger
- Tingling sensation in extremities
- Feelings of lightheadedness
- Fear of death
These symptoms can occur anywhere without any warning. You can even experience these symptoms even when you are asleep. But, no matter how frightening they are, panic attacks are not life-threatening. Many people who experience panic attacks fear that they will faint due to hyperventilation. But this is not true. However, untreated panic disorder can increase the frequency of panic attacks. This can have negative effects on a person’s overall health. These may include increased blood pressure along with the buildup of fat tissue. This can lead to weight gain.
Myth 3. Individuals With Panic Disorders Have to be Medicated For The Rest of Their Lives
It is true that medication can help in treating panic disorders, but it is not required for everyone. Each person is different, and not everyone needs medication. Medication may help in decreasing anxiety, reducing the severity and frequency of panic attacks, and can even improve functioning. But, people with panic attacks do not need to take medication for the rest of their lives. Medication for panic attacks can be prescribed for some time, not for the long term.
Also, there is no one treatment that can work for everyone. If you suffer from a panic disorder, you should consult a qualified therapist to get help. A qualified therapist can come up with an appropriate treatment plan for you. But not all treatment plans include medications.
Myth 4. Panic Attacks Can Make The Person Lose All Control
Individuals having a panic attack may feel that they are out of control. But you should not confuse it with losing all control. Panic attacks can cause various upsetting thoughts and can be very overwhelming. This can make you think that you are going to lose control. But the truth is that panic attacks will not lead to making you lose complete touch with reality.
Different people describe panic attacks in different ways. For some, there’s a sense of doom, or finding it difficult to breathe or swallow. Some individuals even feel as if they hear or feel their heart pounding. They may also experience tunnel vision and cold chills along with sweating and dizziness. All these symptoms are common with panic attacks, and they can make you feel out of control. And while people believe that this may lead them to develop a more severe mental health condition, like schizophrenia.
Myth 5. A Bad Childhood Can Cause Panic Disorder
I have heard people blaming anxious parents or bad childhoods for panic disorder. Some even believe that the cause of the panic disorder is a chemical imbalance. Humans are curious and want to learn the causes of any problems. But, the exact cause for panic disorder is still unknown.
There are many theories revolving around the causes of panic disorder. Some of them include the person’s environment, childhood trauma, and even overprotective parents. But most experts believe that the real cause for panic disorder is a combination of various factors including genetics, environmental, and biological influences.
Myth 6. Panic Attacks Lead to Fainting
It is pretty rare that someone would faint due to panic attacks. Most of the time, fainting is caused by another health condition. It often happens when the carotid artery or vagus nerve compresses and the brain starts losing oxygen for a brief moment. This leads to losing consciousness, or as we call it, fainting. There are various medical conditions or situations that can cause fainting. These may include –
- Drugs or alcohol
- Extreme pain
- Decreased blood pressure
- Straining too heavily during a bowel movement
- Orthostatic pressure changes
Some people do faint during a panic attack, but it is very rare. You need to understand that no one panic attack is the same, and there are different common side effects of panic attacks. People experiencing panic attacks find it terrible because of multiple symptoms start occurring at the same time in just a few minutes. But fainting occurs during a panic attack only if oxygen levels get low that may lead to losing consciousness.