Panic attack – These are tough times! During the ongoing pandemic, everything seems uncertain, and the world is bogged down with bad news after bad news. Businesses have gone kaput, jobs have been lost, the economy is crashing, and people are starving.
During the Coronavirus outbreak, being panicked most of the time is the normal reaction. There is rampant anxiety and depression because people are scared. But no matter how afraid we are of what is to come, we must also brace ourselves and keep our minds free of unnecessary worry.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is an anxiety disorder where the victim is overwhelmed with worry. Nervousness reaches its peak and manifests as a panic attack. Oftentimes it is triggered by extraneous factors, such as times like now, but there could also be other underlying causes like drug abuse, alcohol consumption, excessive stress, and genetic factors as well.
A panic attack can be caused due to a sudden fear about something such as catching the Coronavirus infection, or prolonged stress and extended periods of discomfort. A panic attack can sometimes take the form of phobias like germ phobia or social phobia. Body tremors and irregular blood pressure are some of the symptoms of such phobias.
Sometimes it is someone close to you—a family member, a relative, or a friend, who may have a sudden panic attack. What do you do in such a situation? First, understand that the illness is a real disease, even during an unprecedented pandemic situation as this one, and needs to be treated like any other disorder.
Let us look at the symptoms of a panic attack. These symptoms can also be a sign of other diseases. It ranges from breathlessness and heart disease to hormone imbalances and infections. Certain chemicals in medicines can also cause panic attacks as a side-effect. The major symptoms of a panic attack are:
- Breathlessness or shortness of breath
- Chest pain and accelerated heartbeat
- Excessive sweating, especially from hands and feet
- Abdominal pain
Panic attack or heart attack?
The symptoms of both a panic attack and a heart attack are somewhat similar and therefore, there is a possibility to confuse the two. The only factor that distinguishes them is the actual physical pain in case of a heart attack. Panic attacks cause palpitations and restlessness and the chest pains experienced in such cases are different than that in the case of heart attacks. Both are caused by the excessive secretion of the adrenalin hormone. So it is common to confuse the two.
Panic attacks are caused by stress and anxiety rather than heart disease, although discomfort in the heart is also a symptom of the former. An underlying factor is a prolonged fear in case of a panic attack. So, although the symptoms are similar, a thorough diagnosis will reveal the actual disorder. One can accordingly seek treatment for the patient.
A panic attack is, thus, largely related to anxiety, and is very common during the Coronavirus outbreak. Although treatable, panic attacks are more harmful to patients already suffering from blood pressure-related diseases, obesity, asthma, diabetes and other heart diseases.
As a friend or family member, you should always try to keep the patient calm. Tell them that everything would work out, and as a provider of support, you yourself must always stay calm around the patient.
Keep reassuring them that no matter what, there is always something to look forward to. Show them that you are hopeful and ask them to have faith. Tell them that even though we are currently going through a pandemic that has ravaged the entire world, it will most certainly come to an end soon. If they get into a downward spiral of negative thinking, it can worsen their situation. So, positive thinking and staying positive in such a situation is key to recovery.
It is essential to not leave a patient who has just had a panic attack alone. Stay with them and keep talking to them and reassuring them. It usually takes about 20-30 minutes for someone to calm down after having a panic attack.