Psychology Essay on Panic Attack

Published: 2021-08-11
961 words
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Wesleyan University
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A panic attack is the instant inception of intense fear and discomfort that reaches a peak within a short period (Johnson & Shekhar, 2014). The signs and symptoms can last for a short duration to many hours. The length of a panic attack gets based on the extent to which a person fears and the reaction that results from their panic. The higher the response, the longer and more intense the attack is and its symptoms. The condition is common in females than males, and children and older people are less likely to get affected. Panic attacks can be scary, terrifying and are likely to get out of control. Although those who experience panic attacks instantly realize the unpleasant experiences, the situation is manageable.

Individuals with the condition report instances of flashing vision, heart attack, heavy breathing, hyperventilation, and nausea. Others suffer from tunnel vision due to the flow of blood out of the brain to other areas. The feelings may trigger one to escape from the location where the attack takes place due to flooding of the body with hormones such as adrenaline that aid in defending against harm (Johnson & Shekhar, 2014). A panic attack is a reaction to sympathetic nervous system. Frequent symptoms include heart palpitations, trembling, hot flashes, chest pain, dizziness, nausea, sweating difficulty in moving, tingling sensation and hyperventilation (MacFarlane, 2000). The physical symptoms are easy to notice in people prone to the attack. Thus, it results in amplified anxiety.

Shortness of breath and chest pains are among the leading symptoms. Panic attack in most instances gets incorrectly attributed to a heart attack which can result in the wrong diagnosis. With regards to that, panic attacks are different from other forms of anxiety based on their swift sporadic nature. Panic attacks connect to many causes. One is marijuana. Panic attacks and anxiety are some of the common symptoms associated with the frequent taking of the drug (Johnson & Shekhar, 2014). Besides that, users who take the drug for recreational use also experience the condition.

The other cause is biological causes. They include post-traumatic stress disorder, hyperthyroidism, obsessive-compulsive order, inner ear disturbances and tachycardia orthostatic syndrome (MacFarlane, 2000). Additionally, a region of the brain stem plays a crucial role with regards to the condition. The other is the discontinuation of doses of drugs such as antidepressants can lead to the disorder.

Hyperventilation syndrome is the other cause of the panic attack. Breathing using the chest can cause inhalation of carbon-dioxide and excessive breathing. Hyperventilation syndrome can lead to hypocapnia (Johnson & Shekhar, 2014). The disorder also involves inhaling using the mouth. The situation creates a cluster of symptoms namely dizziness and rapid heartbeat that can trigger panic attacks. Exposure to phobic environments is the other activator of panic attacks.

Panic attacks can take place when one is in either a calm or anxious state. Despite the condition being a defining characteristic of the panic disorder, it is not uncommon for the person to go through panic attacks in a different context such as psychological disorders (Johnson & Shekhar, 2014). An instance is where a person with social disorder experiences attacks before giving a lecture. Persons who frequently suffer repeated attacks are often nervous and may engage in lifestyle change to counter the effects.

Based on that, the likelihood to be on a higher possibility of facing the attacks is known as panic disorder. Panic disorder differs from other diseases in that they are not provoked and are sudden (Hendrix & National Institute of Mental Health, 1991). Nevertheless, panic attacks encountered by those with panic disorder link to particular situations and environments making life challenging. Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder associated with the fear of experiencing embarrassing moments which the victim cannot avoid (Johnson & Shekhar, 2014). Panic attacks relate to the disease and the fear of not being able to prevent a shameless situation. As a result, in severe cases, the victims segregate themselves from others. People who experience panic attacks in particular circumstances develop irrational fears and start evading them. The pattern and trend of avoidance and anxiety become severe and consistent. At that stage, it gets known as panic disorder with agoraphobia.

Panic attacks and disorder are treatable and manageable conditions using a variety of therapies and medication with the best evidence being cognitive behavioral therapy and the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Hendrix & National Institute of Mental Health, 1991). Studies undertaken reveal that psychoanalytic psychotherapy is effective in relieving pain experienced in panic attacks; nevertheless, the results require care. It is because certain aspects such as the reliability of the findings have not yet received clarity.

The other treatment option is breathing exercises. It helps in assisting the rebalance of oxygen and carbon-dioxide levels since a vast majority of cases involve hyperventilation (Johnson & Shekhar, 2014). Dietary changes are the other available treatment avenues. Caffeine worsens panic attacks. Therefore, temporary withdrawal lowers anxiety. Therapies are the other practical remedy.

Many specialists are in a consensus on the combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies as the most suitable medication for panic disorder. The initial step of the treatment is predominantly informal which assists the victim in understanding the condition. Afterwards, cognitive restructuring takes place to enable individuals to replace their thoughts with more positive ideas then exposure therapy completes the process by weakening the level of anxiety through the confrontation of the fears.


Hendrix, M. L., & National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.). (1991). Panic disorder. Rockville, Md.?: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institute of Mental Health

MacFarlane, M. K. (2000). The panic attack, anxiety & phobia solutions handbook. Encinitas, CA: United Research Publishers.

Johnson, P. L., Federici, L. M., & Shekhar, A. (2014). Etiology, triggers and neurochemical circuits associated with unexpected, expected, and laboratory-induced panic attacks. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 46, 429-454.

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