Your heart pounds and you suddenly can’t breathe, you may be experiencing a panic attack. This sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and stress may make you feel like you’re going crazy or that you may even die. These symptoms come on quickly and will pass; however, trying to live with this condition can make you want to withdraw from your normal everyday activities.
In this post, we are going to cover what exactly this condition entails, what causes it, the symptoms and how an emotional support animal can help with panic attacks.
What is a Panic Attack?
We most likely all have something that creates fear in us. This type of stress/anxiety is part of our nervous systems response to a real or perceived danger and is often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. Panic, on the other hand, is a sudden and intense feeling of fear which can cause immobility in the moment. A panic attack can strike at any moment and many patients do not know why it has happened. In fact, some patients even experience a panic attack while “relaxed” or asleep.
What Causes Panic Attacks?
Sometimes a panic attack is a one-time occurrence, while others can be brought on by fearful situations like crossing a bridge or making a public speech. This is especially true if the person has reacted in this fashion before. Panic attacks can also be the result of other mental health issues like anxiety, PTSD, depression or panic disorder.
Symptoms of a Panic Attack
Panic attacks can happen anytime and anywhere, but they often occur while the person is outside of the home. The symptoms of a panic attack come on suddenly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. They can last up to 30 minutes with more severe cases lasting up to one hour. Here are the symptoms of a “full-blown” panic attack;
- Shortness of breath leading to hyperventilation
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Racing or palpitating heart
- Feeling of choking
- Feelings of being detached from the body
- Lightheaded, dizzy or feeling faint
- Hot or cold flashes
- Numbness/tingling sensation
- Fears of dying, going crazy or losing control
Signs of a Panic Disorder
The occasional panic attack is usually nothing to be concerned about, but if you have experienced repeated panic attacks which have affected other aspects of your personality or are causing you anxiety over having another panic attack, you may be experiencing panic disorder.
You may have a panic disorder if you;
- You have frequent panic attacks that are not related to a specific trigger or situation
- Have severe stress, worry or anxiety over having another panic attack
- The panic attacks have stopped you from living a normal life or going to the place(s) where you previously experienced a panic attack.
How an Emotional Support Animal Can Help With Panic Attacks
If you are suffering from panic attacks or panic disorder, an emotional support animal may be the answer you have been seeking.
An ESA can be any species, but dogs and cats tend to be the most common ones chosen. These animals are more than just “pets” they are used to specifically treat severe anxiety ie panic attacks and other debilitating mental and emotional issues.
More and more doctors and mental health professionals are recommending emotional support animals in conjunction with treatment plans that may include medications and changes in lifestyle (better eating, exercise etc.).
For those patients that suffer from moderate to severe panic attacks having a dog that loves to cuddle can be key in helping you calm those rattled emotions. It has been scientifically proven that having an animal on your lap or close by will calm the heart rate, blood pressure and help the person feel at ease.
Having a dog for an ESA will also distract the person from being inside of their own heads. Canines need to be walked, fed and played with which will all help take the focus off of the person’s own troubles.
Dogs and other species of ESA’s also make great listeners, they don’t judge and never tire of hearing of a person’s problems. Animals also help with loneliness and provide another heartbeat in an otherwise solitary household.
Some dogs can also be specifically trained to lie on a person in the midst of a panic attack. Although this action sounds simple, most people who have experienced panic attacks report that having their dog lie across their lap or even across their entire body significantly reduces the symptoms and the duration of the panic attack. Deep pressure therapy using an emotional support animal can significantly reduce the symptoms of a panic attack when it occurs.
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal Doctor’s Note
Panic Attacks & ESA’s
Experiencing panic attacks can be very debilitating and can even lead to a panic disorder where the person’s whole lifestyle is affected. If you are suffering from either of these conditions, seek medical help. Your doctor will go through a variety of questions to help establish the cause of this condition. Once a diagnosis is made, be sure to follow through with the plan put in place by your mental health professional and perhaps even consider the idea of using an emotional support animal. Treating the problem will help you gain back the life you were meant to live.
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