Do Panic Attacks Change In Symptoms Over Time?

For some people panic attack symptoms do change over time. Symptoms they experienced the first time may become more intense, which is one type of change. Other people experience different symptoms over the course of months and years, which is another, completely different type of change.

Yet there are some panic-attack sufferers who have only one or two episodes in a lifetime, so there is no chance for symptoms to change in any recognizable way.

Panic attack can be caused by external factors, such as a stressful family situation or a social setting that makes us anxious to an extreme degree. We may be genetically prone to attacks thanks to our ancestors and respond to situations in an extreme way. Physical stimuli such as changes in brain chemicals or certain foods/food ingredients can also trigger panic attacks. So our symptoms can change depending on what the specific cause might be.

Some panic-attack sufferers report that their first panic attacks included increased heart rate or a pounding heartbeat. Going for a walk and focusing on some other activity reduced this sensation and the panic attack eventually passed (as they always do). But these same people might experience another attack that is indicated by trouble breathing and a change in the heart rate, symptoms that are different from one event to the next.

Panic attack sufferers may remember the first attack or two as being characterized by rapid heartbeat, trouble breathing and a general feeling of helplessness. With subsequent episodes they may have the same type of symptoms but the feelings will be more intense. This may even be caused by apprehension – the fear of another attack. Some patients and doctors have even given this emotion the name “fearing the fear.”

A slightly different view of panic attack comes with the more consistent episodes of panic disorder. When panic attacks occur more frequently the effects on the heart, brain, muscles etc. can intensify. In essence, the body doesn’t have enough time to recover from prior attacks. This alone can be considered a change in panic attack symptoms.

There is a positive way to look at how panic attack symptoms change. In the last decade or two we have access to new medications that can reduce or eliminate panic attack. Self-help programs such as focusing and visualization also help to reduce, change or eliminate symptoms.

As more and more people become aware of panic attacks, panic disorder and severe anxiety they begin to understand that those who suffer this condition can have the common symptoms of heart palpitation, tightness in the throat and chest, breathing difficulties and general fatigue. But these same people may have all of these or only one or two symptoms from this “common” list in future attacks. Sometimes this change comes from improvements in diet or lifestyle. The change may also be attributed to medications or actions the individual takes. But it’s also possible that the symptoms change in type or intensity just because they do! The human body is, after all, a complex thing.

Written by Lucas Beaumont

Generalist. Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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