Can I Have a Panic Attack Without Being Afraid?

The Scary Truth About Panic Attacks

worried woman with head in her hands
Is it possible to have a panic attack that isn't caused by a fear or phobia?. Tom Merton/OJO Images/Getty Images

When you think about a person having a panic attack, what comes to mind? Many people imagine that a panic attacks are a result of a frightened person becomes so overwhelmed with anxiety. You may think of a person being faced with a certain fear Perhaps you envisioned a person with arachnophobia having a severe panic attack at the sight of spider. However, fears and phobias are not the cause of panic attacks for those dealing with panic disorder.

In fact, these attacks actually happen abruptly, without any known trigger or cause. 

While it is true that people with phobias may have a panic attack when exposed to their particular fear, people with panic disorder actually have these attacks without warning. Episodes happen unexpectedly, causing the person to abruptly become overwhelmed with fear and nervousness.  This sudden onslaught of panic attack symptoms it often perceived of as very frightening, as the sufferer never know when symptoms will strike.

What are the Symptoms of Panic Attacks?

As mentioned, panic attacks can occur seemingly out-of-the blue and often begin as the person feels a sense of dread and anxiety wash over them. Panic attacks typically bring on a sense of fear, anxiety, and apprehension. These emotional symptoms are often met with a variety of uncomfortable physical sensations, such as sweating and shaking.

As these somatic sensations set in, the person will often begin to experience unpleasant cognitive symptoms.

For example, the panic sufferer may begin to feel fearful of her symptoms, worried that others will notice which would cause personal embarrassment. She may be afraid that she’ll somehow even lose control or possibly go insane. She may even start to feel like she is losing touch with reality and with herself.

Part of makes panic attacks so difficult to cope with is that these symptoms can strike at any time and impact the person on a physical, emotional, and cognitive level. The following is a list of the most common symptoms of panic attacks.

Panic sufferers typically will not experience every symptom on the list, but it is possible. Panic attacks can vary in severity. Most attacks will reach a peak within the first 10 minutes after the person begins to feel overwhelmed with feelings of dread and anxiety. Even though the symptoms will soon taper off, the panic attack sufferer can have a lingering sense of anxiety and uneasiness long after the attack has subsided.

Does Having a Panic Attack Mean I Have Panic Disorder?

Persistent and unexpected panic attacks are often the telltale signs of panic disorder, however, panic attacks are associated with other conditions.

For example, panic attacks can occur as a result of other mental health disorders, including social anxiety disorders, specific phobias, eating disorders, depression, agoraphobia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive behavior (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additionally, panic attacks have been found to be linked to certain medical conditions, including such as gastroesophaleal reflex disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and sleep disorders. Only through professional help can you determine the root cause of your panic attack episodes.

What Help is Available for Panic Attacks?

Experiencing panic attacks can be a frightening ordeal. Fortunately, there is help available that may assist you in managing these symptoms. Several panic attack treatment options, including psychotherapy, prescribed medications, and self-help strategies, have been proven to safely and effectively treat symptoms.

Through psychotherapy, a panic attack sufferer can expect to discuss deep-seated emotions, work through current issues, and develop for continued maintenance in the future. Your therapist will actively listen to your concerns, assist you in discovering ways to manage symptoms, and guide you through self-help techniques. Common self-help strategies include relaxation skills, journal writing, and deep breathing exercises – all of which are geared towards helping you stop panic attacks in their tracks.

Aside from psychotherapy and self-help techniques, many panic attack sufferers chose to seek professional help for prescribed medications. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are commonly prescribed to help reduce the severity and frequency of panic attacks. Regardless of which treatment options you chose, it is best to seek professional help so that you will soon be better able to cope with your panic attacks. 

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