Panic disorder

You may have what is called panic syndrome if you have recurrent panic attacks and have begun to avoid certain situations and locations. Then you may need to seek help. There are treatments that help.

This article is about panic syndrome in adults. For the anxiety of children and teens, you as a  parent or guardian can read more here .

You are aged 13 to 25 years can read more about  panic attacks at UMO.se . 

What is Panic Syndrome?

When you are so worried about having a panic attack that it affects you in your everyday life, you may have what is called panic syndrome. Often you avoid situations or places that involve congestion and are difficult to leave quickly, such as trains, cinemas or buses.

You might stay home even though you really wanted to do something, for fear of having a panic attack. You may also avoid exposing yourself to experiences that are reminiscent of feeling panic-stricken, such as having a heart palpitations, feeling sick or dizzy.

You should have had these complaints for at least a month. Over time, your anxiety disorders can control you more and more, and your life becomes more limited. Having some single panic attacks does not mean you have panic syndrome.

To get rid of panic syndrome, you may need to learn a new way to manage your anxiety. You may also need treatment.

Panic anxiety symptoms

A panic attack is fear or anxiety that comes suddenly and feels clear in the body. The panic attack often goes by quickly, but the experience can be so frightening that it affects you long afterwards.

In a panic attack, it is common to have one or more of the following symptoms panic disorder:

  • Fast or hard heartbeat.
  • Hard to breathe.
  • Dizziness, nausea or fainting.
  • It feels like a lump in the stomach or pressure over the chest.
  • Sweating, it feels like you are getting hot or cold inside.
  • Knitting or numbness in hands or feet.
  • Tremors or weakness in the muscles.

It is very uncomfortable to have a panic attack. It often comes unexpectedly, when you are not prepared. You may have a panic attack, for example, when you are resting or relaxing.

You may experience sudden dizziness, giddiness, or unreal feelings. You may think that you are losing control, going crazy or even dying.

Common to think that there is something physically wrong

When it feels so strong in the body, you may think that you are physically ill, for example, that you have a heart failure. It can be difficult to understand that the bodily reactions have to do with how you feel mentally.

The fear that something is seriously wrong with you can aggravate anxiety. But anxiety is not dangerous and it goes away by itself.

When should I seek care?

Contact a health care center if one or more of the following applies to you:

  • You have started to avoid places or situations of fear of anxiety.
  • You have had recurrent panic attacks for at least a month.
  • You relieve your anxiety with alcohol, drugs or by  hurting yourself .

When you book a time you can ask to have a sufficient length of visit time so that you can tell us how you are doing. 

You can also seek care at a psychiatric outpatient clinic.

You who are young

You who are under 25 can contact student health or a  youth reception . The age limit for youth clinics may differ depending on where you live.

If you need to talk to someone

You can call a phone call or guide . Here is someone who listens and can provide advice and support on how to proceed. You can call anonymously.

Try again if the help didn’t work

If you have previously received help somewhere but do not think it worked, try again somewhere else.

Talking to different people can work well. It is also different how it feels during different periods. Sometimes it may take time before it feels right to receive help.

If it’s in a hurry

Seek treatment of panic disorder at a psychiatric emergency room if you have thoughts of taking your life , or are feeling so bad that you feel like you can no longer cope

What can I do for myself?

You can learn how to deal with anxiety and discomfort, but it can take some time. Although anxiety itself is not harmful, it can hinder you in everyday life.

There are different ways to deal with your anxiety at the moment. There are also things you can do to feel better in the long run. Read more and get advice on  anxiety here.

All people are different. Try your way and find out what works for you. Have you had anxiety in the past and noticed that something in particular helped? Try doing the same thing again.

The most important thing is that you do not stop doing things that you feel good about, and that you continue to try to deal with the anxiety in the moment.

Tips for managing a panic attack in the moment

Train to allow the anxiety to be there and try to handle the body’s reactions without trying to escape from them. Anxiety usually goes faster if you stay in the situation.

When you feel that you are having a panic attack, try the following:

  • Sit on a chair and push your feet into the floor or ground. Notice how it feels.
  • Describe for yourself what is happening right now.
  • Allow your thoughts and feelings to be just as they are.
  • Try to breathe calmly. Place one hand on your stomach and note your breathing.
  • Wait and observe how anxiety decreases. It always calms down after a while.

If it feels like you can’t get air, get dizzy or are about to faint, you may have started hyperventilating. The symptoms of panic disorder can be very unpleasant and are because you exhale more carbon dioxide than usual.

You can affect your breathing by acting in the moment as if you were calm, for example by relaxing your shoulders, hands and jaws. After a little while, breathing usually returns to normal. When you breathe normally, the amount of carbon dioxide you exhale decreases, and then the unpleasant symptoms of panic disorder usually go over.

Once the reaction is over, try to continue doing what you did before you got anxious.

Tips on how to manage anxiety in the long run

Challenge yourself to continue doing what you like, despite the fear of getting anxious. It increases your self-esteem and confidence in yourself and can reduce your anxiety over time.

You can often feel better if you  move . Try to rest and get enough  sleep . You can take small rest breaks, and for example,  work out relaxation  or  do breathing exercises  if you have trouble sleeping.

You can try doing exercises in  conscious presence, also called mindfulness . It can help you to be calmer and easier to handle.

It is also good if you can talk to someone about how you feel. You can also help write down your thoughts and feelings. 

Alcohol and drugs make the anxiety stronger

Do not try to reduce anxiety with  alcohol or other drugs . It may feel like it helps for the moment, but it makes the anxiety worse in the long run.

Try quitting or reducing if you  smoke, sniff , drink a lot of coffee or energy drink. Nicotine and caffeine can increase anxiety and make it harder for you to sleep well.

Learn more about anxiety and help others

Read about anxiety or share other people’s experiences,  for example through various associations and organizations.  You can contact the  Ångestförbundet ÅSS  and get support, tips and advice from people who have their own experience.

You can contact a guide if you want to talk or chat with someone anonymously.

Treatment of Panic Disorder

Panic syndrome can be treated with psychological treatment or medication, or a combination of both. The goal of

is to find ways to deal with panic anxiety so that it does not hinder you in everyday life. 

One form of psychotherapy that works in panic syndrome is cognitive behavioral therapy, KBT. KBT treatment can be given individually or in groups. Sometimes you can also get treatment with KBT via the internet .

There is also other psychotherapy or psychological treatment that can help, and it may be different from person to person what works best.

You can sometimes get help from drugs. Drugs may be combined with other treatments, such as physical activity or talk therapy. Getting advice and support to make changes to your daily habits can help increase your resilience to anxiety, stress and mental illness. Even small changes can make a big difference.

Advice to related parties

It can be scary to experience when someone has a panic attack. You can be scared yourself and have a hard time knowing what to do. Feeling powerless in the face of one’s problems can be painful.

A good strategy may be to gain knowledge about anxiety. It can make it easier to support the poor person. It can make it easier for you to be calm, as it provides a sense of security for the person who has anxiety.

Sometimes you may also need to encourage someone who has panic syndrome to seek professional help. You can also get valuable support from others in the same situation.

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