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Yikes! It’s A Panic Attack!

Friday, February 25, 2011
A pounding heart. Shaking hands. Shortness of breath. These are just some of the symptoms commonly felt during a panic attack.

Twice as many women as men have panic attacks. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 6 million Americans over age 18 are affected by panic disorder each year.

A panic attack occurs when the body goes into full-blown fight-or-flight mode without any apparent cause. As dramatic and scary as the attacks can be, most people who have them can stop them with a combination of therapy, medication and lifestyle changes.

Seek Medical Help

The majority of people who have panic attacks can be helped. But it’s essential to make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible.

Your doctor will want to determine whether the episode may have been caused by a physical problem such as low blood sugar or a thyroid imbalance, anxiety or both. If it appears that the panic attack may have been caused by panic disorder, your doctor may be able to recommend a mental health professional.

If you have an anxiety disorder, a trained psychotherapist can work with you to uncover the causes of the problem and teach you how to cope with the symptoms.

Prescription drugs play a supporting role: They can’t cure anxiety disorders, but they help keep symptoms under control while a patient undergoes therapy.

Handle Panic Attacks On The Job

Because we spend so much time at work, it’s inevitable that those prone to panic attacks often experience them in the workplace. And when attacks aren’t treated, people may develop phobias about the locations where they’ve had them.

If an employee is having panic attacks, try to understand her fears and to avoid increasing her anxiety. Federal and state medical privacy laws don’t permit employers to ask questions such as “Were you having a panic attack yesterday?” or “Is it fear of a panic attack that’s making you miss work?”

But you can meet privately with an employee and ask whether he or she needs help or a workplace accommodation. Be supportive and calm. You can also let workers know that you will be flexible about their need to schedule medical appointments.

If you’re the one suffering from panic disorder, you might choose to confide in key staff, explaining that you’re having trouble with anxiety and seeking help for it. This could be a good strategy if employees have witnessed your difficulty and are concerned for your health.

Finally, commit to taking good care of yourself. Eating a healthy diet, getting exercise and making time for plenty of sleep can assist your recovery.

For More Information
Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of panic disorder with the NASE special report “Coping With Panic Attacks.”

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