How often have you thought you were having a heart attack while you were having a panic attack? How often have you been told or read that panic attacks will not kill you?
I always thought the scientists and therapists and doctors knew what they were talking about. It was important for me to know that their advice could be trusted. Many of you will relate.
While enduring years of panic attacks and continual underlying anxiety most of my life, I’ve always feared, as others have in my situation, that all this strain on my system couldn’t be healthy. Those heart palpitations, the sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath and the anxiety are the same symptoms of heart attack. With each panic attack, I felt sure it was leading to heart failure.
In fact, I always wondered how to tell the difference between a panic attack and a heart attack. How would I know when to go to the hospital? This fear alone was enough to give me a panic attack.
Years went by and when the panic attacks didn’t kill me, I grew to believe that I had fretted for nothing. There really wasn’t anything to worry about.
Or so I believed, until I came across a recent announcement. Scientists are now saying that panic attacks can lead to heart problems, including heart rhythm issues and outright heart attacks. You can imagine how alarmed I was to hear this.
The only “good” news, if you can call it that, was that the damage isn’t apparent right away, so there’s no need to worry during a panic attack. The fact is, it can take as much as 6 months to see the effects of any damage that might have been caused during a panic attack.
They also say that the chance of panic attacks causing problems is still low, but I can’t help but wonder.
I’ve heard that problems with heart rhythm are relatively common, as are panic attacks. Did you know that everyone at some time in their lives will experience a panic attack? According to the scientists who conducted this latest study, it only takes one panic attack to cause damage to the heart.
Taking into account the fact that everyone will have a panic attack, it’s hard not to wonder if panic did cause a large number of people to develop heart rhythm problems. If you could use me as an example, I’ve lived with anxiety forever and panic for about 8 years. Today I have heart rhythm problems. Coincidence? Or is this evidence?
And if that’s not bad enough. Apparently, woman are triply at risk because we are more likely to have panic attacks than men. Menopausal women could be at an even higher risk of having a heart attack as a result of panic attacks.
Although it’s possible your heart is fine, here’s a 4-point check list to get treatment for your panic attacks so that damage will not occur:
1. Start with your medical practitioner where you can get a thorough physical checkup to see if there are any underlying conditions contributing to or causing your panic attacks.
2. Insist on being referred to a doctor or therapist who specializes in the treatment of panic attacks.
3. Do not be waved off. Let the practitioners know you won’t be easily appeased. Don’t settle for a simple answer to your panic attacks. In many cases, you might be given a prescription to ease your symptoms. Demand more. You need to get at the root of your panic attacks. It’s proven that in the majority of cases, the best cure is an appropriate combination of talk therapy and drug therapy.
4. Find the right therapist for you. We have our own personalities and like other situations, we don’t get along with everyone. The same holds true for therapists. If you feel you are not getting the results you expect, or you don’t feel comfortable with your therapist, seek a second opinion.
Although the risk is relatively small, it doesn’t pay to delay seeking immediate help for your panic attacks, especially if you are a woman.