Constant and intense anxiety, stressful situations and fear experiences are just some of these factors that can lead to a disorder that causes anxiety attacks, a mental state characterized by respiratory difficulty, tachycardia, palpitations and chest pain, as well as other manifestations.
Moreover, various studies have established a link between genes and behaviors associated with anxiety, noting that people inherit a predisposition to the disease of anxiety disorder, which can be activated by external factors, especially in childhood.
Anxiety is a protective mechanism of living beings, which is designed to mobilize the body, maintain vigilance and reaction to threats or danger in order to prevent their consequences, or to minimize them. Anxiety thus performs an adaptive function and can help to cope with difficult situations.
So, if such a mechanism starts working somewhat distorted, and we have fear or anxiety that we cannot control, we may develop an anxiety attack, a condition that, instead of helping, disarms us.
Characteristics of Disorder Causing Anxiety Attacks
The disorder that causes anxiety attacks is characterized by a sharp and unexpected appearance of massive autonomic discharge, carried out by noradrenaline and adrenaline, which manifests itself through a significant increase in pulse rate, chest compression, a feeling of suffocation with increased respiratory rate, stomach pain, trembling, sweating, anxiety, dizziness and poor balance, as well as a feeling of numbness or goosebumps, among other things.
This condition is accompanied by longing and a desire to urgently leave the place where the patient is. People suffering from anxiety attacks may feel that they are about to die or that they are rapidly losing consciousness. In more extreme cases, a person may experience symptoms of a personality disorder or transformation of their ego from the inside.
Pathogenesis of Anxiety Attacks
In general, the duration of an anxiety attack is less than one hour, and the immediate cause is the massive activation of a group of very small neurons located in the brain stem and releasing noradrenaline (NAD) in successive pulses in a certain area called the blue spot, this area located in the brain stem, is responsible for the reaction to panic and stress. The more often discharge occurs in this zone, the higher the degree of activation and alertness of the whole organism, therefore, discharge in this area is minimal at night while we sleep, average during wakefulness or performing routine tasks, and high if we find ourselves in a life-threatening situation or in a fight-or-flight situation.
Such discharge accelerates the processing of stimuli in the brain, gives the speed of mental associations, the speed of analysis, the ability to make instant decisions and muscle coordination for the immediate implementation of decisions taken to action.
In parallel, adrenaline is released in the adrenal glands (located above the kidneys and performing the function of regulating reactions to stress), which increases heart rate and respiration. That is, an emergency reaction is created, which prepares the psyche and the body for immediate action.
Normally, the blue spot is regulated by various factors, so that unloading occurs only when a reliable signal is received that we are facing a real threat. However, with a disorder that causes anxiety attacks, this mechanism works with failures, causing discharge in situations when there is no danger for us.
Manifestations of Disorder
The disorder that causes anxiety attacks is more common among women than among men. It can appear at any age, but usually begins in older young adults. In addition, it often appears in people with a dependent character, with real or imaginary losses.
However, not all people suffering from anxiety attacks develop the disease. Moreover, it should be taken into account that there are other diseases, such as asthma, hyperthyroidism, hypoparathyroidism, hypoglycemia or epilepsy, as well as many others that may be accompanied by symptoms similar to an anxiety attack, so these pathologies should be reasonably excluded when making a diagnosis.
An anxiety attack creates a panic situation, with some symptoms very similar to a heart attack, and may even be confused with it. It occurs abruptly, without warning signs, and reaches maximum intensity in a few minutes.
Symptoms may vary from person to person, but most often there is a rapid heartbeat, sweating and weakness. The patient may feel swelling or itching on their hands, chills or suffocation, chest pain, compression, unreality or fear of losing control. A person may feel that their heart has stopped, that they are losing consciousness or are about to die.
Since this attack occurs abruptly, a person may show severe anxiety in the period between attacks, worrying because they are unable to predict where and when the next attack will overtake them.
This disorder is often accompanied by other mental disorders, such as depression, and can provoke phobias associated with the places or situations in which the attack occurred. So, if a person has an attack in the elevator, they may begin to be afraid to use elevators or other enclosed spaces.
One of the complications of the disorder that causes an anxiety attack is agoraphobia. A person avoids any situations that create a feeling of helplessness for them if an attack occurs, which leads to them stopping their daily activities, and in some cases, to seclusion.
Treatment of Disorder Causing Anxiety Attack
To determine the source of an anxiety attack or the presence of any provoking disorder, it is important to consult a medical specialist.
In certain cases, it will be necessary to resume appropriate treatment, which may consist of taking medications, psychotherapy or both.
Psychotherapy involves working with a psychotherapist who will help the patient by teaching them special techniques for controlling such symptoms, as well as achieving confidence in controlling certain situations.
If pharmacological treatment is necessary, there are two types of medications that have proven to be reliable and effective for this type of disorder, these are antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Some antidepressants such as serotonin re-uptake inhibitors have shown their effectiveness a few days after the start of treatment. In addition, the attending physician may use benzodiazepines for temporary control of seizures, for a maximum of two weeks.
If the diagnosis is made correctly and treatment is started on time, the disorder that causes an anxiety attack can be defeated. On the contrary, if the diagnosis is not determined, the disease can go into a chronic stage and will be very difficult for the patient to tolerate.