If you have social anxiety, you may have experienced something known as a panic attack. Even though panic attacks are generally attributed to panic disorder, they can also be a problem for those suffering from social anxiety disorder (SAD).

If you are not sure what a panic attack means, let us help you out. The major panic attack symptoms are heart beating fast, hands shaking, dry mouth, nausea, profuse sweating, inability to breathe, etc. Therefore, if you have experienced a combination of these panic attack symptoms before, you have likely experienced a panic attack. 

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, but chronic anxiety can interfere with the quality of your life. Not only can panic attacks account for behavioral changes, but panic attack symptoms can also have serious consequences on a person’s physical health.

Continue reading to find out the causes of a panic attack, panic attack symptoms, and the most effective panic attack treatment. 

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What happens to your body during a panic attack?

To understand and gain control of your panic attack symptoms, it is important to know what causes it. 

A panic attack is like experiencing a chain of events. The first trigger in this chain of responses occurs in the brain. Chemical messengers or neurotransmitters send signals to the different areas of your brain which influence the following processes in your body. 

In the case of a panic disorder, neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and serotonin play a major role. The brain structures that are initially affected are the hypothalamus and the amygdala. 

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Once the signals are affected by the brain structures, the sympathetic nervous system gets activated. This is what triggers the fight or flight response. Simultaneously, adrenaline is rushed into the bloodstream which causes the feeling of panic along with bodily effects such as increased heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, and dizziness, etc. 

It is important to note that panic attack symptoms may increase your risk for anxiety disorders, including panic disorder. Therefore, a panic attack isn’t something you should take lightly.

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Anxiety disorders

Several types of anxiety disorders can be triggered if panic attacks aren’t taken seriously or treated. Some common anxiety disorders are:

1.Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is marked by excessive anxiety that happens because of no logical reason. About 6.8 million Americans every year are diagnosed with GAD or Generalised Anxiety Disorder. This anxiety disorder is diagnosed when extreme worry or stress lasts for about six months or more. 

With a mild case of GAD, people can complete their day-to-day tasks. However, severe cases may have a profound impact on your personal and professional life and must be treated. 

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2. Social Anxiety Disorder 

Social Anxiety Disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders. It is characterized by the paralyzing fear of social situations and being judged by others. This is a severe anxiety disorder that can leave a person feeling ashamed and humiliated. 

People can develop Social Anxiety Disorder as young as the age of 13. About 15 million people in America suffer from this anxiety disorder, however, most of these cases go untreated. 

3. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Those who suffer from OCD feel an overwhelming need to perform particular rituals, or compulsions repeatedly. They experience intrusive thoughts that can be disturbing and may affect their day-to-day routine activities. 

Common compulsions faced by OCD patients include counting, habitual hand washing, checking things over and over again. Obsessions can include worrying about cleanliness, the need for symmetry, aggressive impulses. 

4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD develops after a person experiences a major traumatic experience such as war, a physical attack, natural disasters, etc. Symptoms of PTSD can affect the person immediately or may be delayed for years. 

5. Panic Disorder

Panic Disorders include panic attacks that cause spontaneous feelings of anxiety, terror, impending doom, etc. Panic attack symptoms may include heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, etc. These panic attack symptoms can occur at any time without any warning.

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What effects do panic attacks have on your body? 

Here are some physical symptoms that you may experience during a panic attack:

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  1. Some of the most common bodily effects of a panic attack include heart palpitations, lightheadedness or dizziness, nausea, and chest pain.
  1. Headaches from constant worry are common.
  1. Overall feelings of irritability can be heightened. 
  1. Panic attacks can cause rapid or shallow breathing. These symptoms can be heightened depending on the intensity of the stressor or the panic attack.
  1. Stomach pain, upset stomach, diarrhea may also be accompanied by a panic attack.
  1. A pounding heart or heart palpitations are common. You may experience your heartbeat quickening in pace and intensity.
  1. Loss of libido. That is, long-term panic disorder can decrease your sexual desire.
  1. Anxiety and panic disorders can leave you feeling extremely fatigued and may wipe you out throughout the day.
  1. Loss of appetite
  1. Sleep problems are common with panic disorders and other anxiety disorders.
  1. You may feel an increase in your blood pressure or your blood pressure rising whenever your anxiety flares up.
  1. Unexplained pains and muscle aches throughout the body can also occur. 
  1. Apart from these physical symptoms, panic disorders can cause mental effects such as depression, feeling lost and detached from your loved ones, nightmares, insomnia, becoming emotionally withdrawn, etc. 

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Panic attack treatment!

The best panic attack treatment is to consult a therapist. It can be very difficult for you to control and manage your emotions on your own. Therefore, to prevent your panic attacks from aggravating into a panic disorder or other severe anxiety disorders, you should speak to a licensed therapist.

To deal with a panic attack right when it is happening, you should allow the feelings to come and then gently pass. The parasympathetic nervous system eventually returns your body into the normal state of rest as the adrenaline is absorbed. 

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