For someone who may be experiencing their first panic attack, a call to the doctor's office or 911 is warranted. The idea is to make sure that the cause of the person's distress is not a heart attack, asthma problem, endocrine emergency, or other dangerous medical condition.
A medical professional is the only person who should make the diagnosis of panic attack. There is no such thing as a "wasted" visit to the doctor in this case. It is better to be told that the diagnosis is panic attack than to assume that someone is panicking and be proved wrong.
Almost everyone experiencing symptoms of a panic attack needs evaluation. Unless the person has a history of having panic attacks, is otherwise healthy, and is experiencing a typical attack, they must be evaluated promptly by a doctor. The level of evaluation depends on many factors. Err on the side of safety when deciding whether to go to a hospital's emergency department.
Even for medical professionals, the diagnosis of panic attack is known as a diagnosis of exclusion. This simply means that before the doctor can be comfortable with the diagnosis of panic attack, all other possible causes need to be considered and ruled out.
Taking care of panic attacks at home is possible, but be careful not to mistake another serious illness (such as a
heart attack) for a panic attack. In fact, this is the dilemma that doctors face when people experiencing panic are brought to a hospital's emergency department or the clinic.
If a person has been diagnosed with panic attacks in the past and is familiar with the signs and symptoms, the following techniques may help the person stop the attack. You may also try this for yourself if you are experiencing the symptoms of a panic attack.
If a person is diagnosed with any medical illness, especially heart disease, home treatment is not appropriate. Even if the person has a history of panic attacks, home care is not appropriate if there is any new or worrisome symptom.
After a person is diagnosed with "panic attack," he or she will be given follow-up instructions depending on the entire picture of the illness obtained by the evaluating doctor. Most people are referred for immediate follow–up. Others may be given instructions that follow-up is not needed unless the symptoms return.
For those people whose panic attacks are brought about by known stimuli, obviously the idea is to avoid those stimuli. Behavioral therapy is an important part of treatment, and people who have panic attacks may "practice" being in their trigger situations (such as riding an elevator or flying in an airplane) as part of their treatment. For those who go on to be diagnosed with panic disorder or other forms of anxiety, taking the prescribed medications is the key to prevention. Behavioral therapy may also be recommended
The prognosis for people who suffer a panic attack is troubling. Some people have 1 attack and are never bothered again. Yet, two-thirds of people experiencing a panic attack go on to be diagnosed with panic disorder. Also, half of those who go through a panic attack will develop clinical depression within the following year. Occasionally, a person will, after a long evaluation, be diagnosed with a medical condition that causes panic symptoms.
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