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Panic attack, also known as the anxiety attacks, are episodes of deep fear and discomfort. The fear starts instantly, often without any obvious, and develops gradually trough a series of symptoms until it reaches its peak within 10 minutes. Panic attacks generally don’t last longer than a couple of minutes and they are considered to be completely harmless. However, people who suffer from panic attacks are very worried about these experiences that may even affect the quality of their life. They often say panic attacks are the most frightening of all experiences they ever had. They usually describe it as an intense feeling of dying, heart attack or suffocating. It is estimated that approximately 5% of population will experience panic attacks during their lifetimes. Panic attacks affect at least 20% of adult Americans or about 60 million of people.

Causes of panic attack

There are many possible causes of panic attacks. Research into the causes of panic attack is ongoing and it is not yet understood why do they happen in otherwise healthy people. One of the explanations associates panic attacks with normal body’s reaction to stress, as a part of the defense mechanism. As the body cannot distinguish between physical and psychological stress, it reacts equally by preparing itself for emergency reaction. This is why the typical symptoms of panic attack include breathing faster, tension in the muscles, rise in the blood pressure etc.

A panic attack is not the same as a normal fear, but it may sometimes result from a phobia. Another significant cause of panic attacks are different social anxiety disorders. Certain medical conditions, like asthma and heart disease, as well as certain medications, like steroids and some asthma medications, can provoke panic attacks as side-effects. People with changes in the normal functions of the brain are also prone to panic attacks. There is also strong evidence that the tendency to have panic attacks can sometimes be inherited, but it may also be a learned response. Stress is probably the main cause of panic attacks in otherwise healthy people.

Managing anxiety

One’s personal anxiety can be affected by many factors including their diet. Changing the diet may significantly limit one’s panic attacks. Stress and mood swings can be caused by increased intake of sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Reducing the intake of these substances is the first step to ease anxiety levels. Patients should also reduce sodium intake and increase intake of magnesium, calcium and vitamin B. It is also important to keep the body well hydrated and to get enough sleep.

Other recommended strategies are regular physical activity, practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and breathing exercises, relaxing massage and aromatherapy.

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