It’s not unusual to panic at times, but most people recover quickly and without help. But if you instantly have trouble breathing or your heart beats rapidly when reminded of something bad that happened, you may be experiencing something called a PTSD attack. Frequent occurrences could be signs of other trouble.
What Is Ptsd?
“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.”
Known by many names, symptoms which today are commonly associated with PTSD have been around for centuries and known by other labels, like “shell shock” or “combat fatigue.”
What Causes Ptsd?
At the heart of PTSD and other mental disorders is trauma of some sort. PTSD attacks could be the result of extremely stressful life events, your personal or family history of mental illness, your natural temperament, and how brain cells communicate with one another. But there isn’t a single cause.
What Is A Ptsd Attack?
Years of research tells us that for someone living with PTSD, a panic attack and a PTSD attack are closely related, if not one and the same. Intense fear which appears instantly could indicate you’re experiencing a panic attack, and it may happen without warning or an obvious source. Or the attack could be triggered when something jogs a memory of the initial trauma.
When you have a PTSD attack, you might be afraid you’ll die or are worried about losing personal control. The experience may appear like something happening around you isn’t real. A PTSD attack normally lasts between 5 and 20 minutes but sometimes even longer, persisting for a few hours. Anxiety will peak within about 10 minutes of the start of the attack.
A PTSD attack normally includes physical symptoms:
- Chest soreness
- A quick or throbbing heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Dizziness, shivering, or trembling
- Stomach discomfort or nausea
- Chills or night sweats
- Feeling like you’re choking
If you’ve experienced more than one PTSD attack, or if you’re concerned about the next time one will happen, then you may suffer from a panic disorder.
What triggers a PTSD attack?
People who struggle with PTSD and panic attacks often share common triggers:
- Seeing someone linked to the trauma could set off a PTSD attack, or a physical appearance or trait could serve as a reminder of what happened.
- Thoughts and emotions are also PTSD triggers, as being afraid, helpless, or stressed, could set off symptoms.
- Recognizing something which reminds you of the traumatic incident can prompt your PTSD symptoms.
- Strong odors are uniquely intertwined with memories. If you survived a deadly fire, the scent of a barbecue or campfire could end with an unpleasant reaction.
- If you return to the site of the trauma, or a place that reminds you of it, could bring on an attack.
- Popular media, like television programs, news shows, radio broadcasts or podcasts, and movies.
- Feelings like fear or despair can be attack triggers.
- If you hear a certain song, noise, or voice, you may be susceptible to a PTSD attack. For instance, a car exhaust backfiring could be a painful reminder of the sound of a gunshot.
- The taste of certain foods or alcohol may remind you of what happened.
- Certain situations, like being in a crowded elevator or waiting in line, could remind you of feeling trapped following a car accident or waiting in an emergency room for treatment.
- Anniversaries and certain words.
Many PTSD symptoms can be treated with ketamine or other kinds of therapy.
Diagnosis & Treatment
It’s critical to understand that PTSD doesn’t affect just combat veterans. Anyone who lived through a trauma, regardless of age or gender, can develop the condition. If you experience symptoms, a doctor may examine you for signs of an underlying medical issue, while a trained psychiatric professional will be most interested in thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and your personal or family history of mental illness. Diagnosis often depends on comparing your symptoms to criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Your doctor or therapist may then recommend psychotherapy or other kinds of treatment to manage symptoms.
If you experience symptoms of PTSD and have panic attacks, you can regain control of your life through different kinds of treatment, including ketamine infusion or esketamine nasal sprays. A doctor or therapist can customize treatment once you’ve been diagnosed, but successfully managing your symptoms will take time and commitment.