What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is an acute, overpowering feeling of fear and tension. The wave of fear and tension usually lasts from a few minutes to half an hour, and then subsides. Having a panic attack is often experienced as extremely intense. Stress is an important factor in panic attacks.
A panic disorder is when someone has had a panic attack on more than one occasion and is (repeatedly) worried about having more panic attacks. The person will avoid situations or places where the panic attack could potentially occur, such as the bus, the train, a store or a busy street. Children and youngsters are sometimes too afraid to enter the school building or the classroom. Places where it is difficult for them to get away or where they cannot be helped easily, are especially frightening to them.
Characteristics and symptoms of a panic attack
There are many symptoms of a panic attack. These vary greatly from individual to individual, both in type and intensity. The most common symptoms are:
- accelerated heartrate and rapid breathing (shortness of breath);
- sweating, chills, tremors, dizziness;
- tightness, an uncomfortable feeling in the chest;
- blurred vision.
- fear of fainting;
- tingling and / or numbness in the hands or feet;
- dry mouth, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhoea;
- feeling of detachment from yourself;
- not being able to think clearly.
The fear of going mad or dying also plays a role. People are usually exhausted after a panic attack. The body has been in the highest state of readiness.
Treatment of a panic attack
At Yes We Can Youth Clinics, we help young people, whom we call 'fellows', to understand and deal with the causes underlying their anxiety and panic. We also teach fellows how to stop a panic attack. We are available 24/7 to help, support, motivate and confront young people at the appropriate time. Warmth, unconditional acceptance and trust are central to this during treatment and also during our aftercare programme.
Group sessions, system / family therapy and daily sports and outdoor activities are important components in the treatment of a panic disorder and any other problems that the fellows have. Together, the treatment team and the fellow set personal goals, using a step-by-step approach. This includes one-on-one sessions with the regular therapist, giving feedback to each other in the group, and participating in sports and games in a creative way. The regular therapist has consultations with the other (care) professionals three times a day. This ensures that everyone is kept well informed about how the fellow is doing.
We also teach fellows how to deal with panic and / or a panic attack by employing cognitive therapy, anxiety reduction training and task concentration training. We also use group and individual exercises to teach the fellows how to break patterns. We help them live in the moment and focus on what they are doing instead of worrying.
Read more about our treatment approach here.
Panic attacks and medication
Before coming to our clinic, fellows may have previously been prescribed medication for anxiety and panic attacks, for example, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
At Yes We Can Youth Clinics, we want to treat 'the real person', namely, the person with all of his / her underlying pain. That is why we try to reduce any medication that the person is already taking to zero or to as little as possible.
The safe treatment climate at Yes We Can Youth Clinics, the positive environment and the entire treatment team that is present 24/7 to support, motivate and confront the fellows, where necessary, all ensure that the withdrawal of medication is usually successful. Even once the fellow has left the clinic and continues to work on recovery, medication is often hardly necessary anymore, if at all.