The name panic attack is an anglicism that comes from the so-called “panic attack”. And it is the denomination of something that some human beings have always suffered from, that is, a strong panic attack.
In general, the first episode of panic is never forgotten, and it is from there that the one who suffered it has the feeling that it will soon happen again. And that’s the start of a vicious circle, from which you can only get out with professional help.
Panic attack is a pathology that presents physical symptoms: the person experiences the sensation of being close to death, or madness, suffers from tachycardia, shortness of breath, suffocation, among other effects. In fact, many report experiencing severe chest pain similar to that associated with a heart attack. However, neither death nor heart attack occurs.
“Those who have panic attacks cannot be left alone, because as soon as they experience the first attack, their behavior changes completely; avoid places where you suffered the crisis, try not to carry out the action you were carrying out at the moment of panic; in short, their conduct is limited and the patient’s life is restricted to the point of isolation”. The Bachelor of Psychology Gabriela Martinez Castro (MN 18627) explained that “this particular typology of anxiety disorders tends to progress rapidly and has serious consequences.”
For the director of the Center for Specialized Studies in Anxiety Disorders (Ceeta), “a contact with reality that is as firm as possible should be attempted; and not be guided by thoughts, fantasies and fears. You have to try to have as realistic a thought as possible, and contrast that thought with reality.”
“It is known that the panic attack is becoming more frequent. The majority of patients who suffer from this disorder also suffer from agoraphobia or fear of open spaces”, specified the specialist in anxiety disorders.
“Anguish, etymologically comes from ‘narrow’, given that at the time of the panic attack the airway is narrowed, which causes difficulty breathing”. The medical psychoanalyst Juan Eduardo Teson (MN 44190) began to describe that “during the panic attack the person has a feeling of suffocation, which in extreme cases generates intense fear and the experience of imminent death.”
According to the member of the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association (APA), “other somatic expressions occur concomitantly, such as palpitations (incrise of cardiac frecuency), sweating (particularly of the hands), tremor, increased body temperature, increased blood pressure, dizziness. The person feels paralyzed and out of himself, in a feeling of strangeness, since he does not recognize himself in this state, to the extent that it occurs for the first time. “It can last just a few minutes or it can last longer,” she added.
Thus, palpitations, sweating, tremors or muscle jerks, feeling of suffocation or shortness of breath, choking sensation, tightness in the chest, nausea, discomfort or gastrointestinal discomfort, instability, dizziness or feeling of fainting, feeling of unreality, fear of losing control, going crazy, dying, tingling, chills or suffocation, etc. “these are just some of the symptoms that alert us to a panic attack, which comes on abruptlyreaching its maximum intensity ten minutes after it started”, explained Martínez Castro.
“Everything can be triggered when we are calm, driving, watching television or just taking a nice walk. Suddenly, we begin to feel palpitations, as if the heart were going to jump out of the chest, we feel an immense fear of dying or going crazy, desperation, need to escape – the specialist exemplified -. We notice that it is difficult for us to breathe and a dizziness makes us think that we could faint. We are paralyzed by fear without being able to understand what is happening, but one thing is clear to us: we feel that we are in danger.”
This is how the disease evolves taking over and nullifying various areas of the person’s life: personal life (family difficulties due to dependency, frequent divorce), work and/or academic life (due to the inability to move and the fear of staying in the place of work or study where there is fear of suffering a crisis), physical (given the very high number of medical interconsultations and the lack of physical activity due to confinement), emotional (the lifestyle became so impoverished that the individual ends up depressed) and social (given the fear of suffering the crisis and that others notice it, they stop hanging out with friends and attending social events).
“It is important to note that the sooner the consultation is sought and treatment is started, the faster the evolution stops and recovery proceeds since a patient adequately treated by a professional specialized in the matter should return to their usual life around the third month of treatment, ”said Martínez Castro.
For Tesone, “the first thing to do is go to a medical guard, since you have to differentiate the panic attack from other pathologies, such as a cardiovascular problem, or of another nature, which will be up to the doctor to differentiate”.
And although he clarified that once diagnosed “it is not a problem that requires taking medication for life”, the psychoanalyst acknowledged “medication is a necessity in the first moment to reduce the intense suffering of the patientgiven that such an intensity of anguish is harmful to the person in his psyche and in his body”.
“The medication is a palliative, certainly useful and necessary, but it does not change the structure of the person – Tesone expanded -. Anxiety is usually the iceberg of a deeper problem that the person can ignore, and it will be time and psychotherapy that will allow deeper changes in the personality”. And he highlighted: “The appearance of anguish can be an opportunity for the person to question himself, through psychotherapeutic help, about the deep causes of the appearance of anguish.”
Martínez Castro pointed out that “it is a disease with a specific treatment: cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy and psychiatric medication, directed by experts in the field.”
“In a patient collaborating with the treatment, with a weekly session it is possible to reach discharge and thus the person can resume their usual activities, without any restriction, dispensing with treatment and medication during that period,” said the specialist.
While Tesone concluded: “It is impossible to predict the duration of a treatment, each situation is subjective and the times are the internal ones of each patient and not the chronological times of the calendar”.
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