Panic Attacks At Night

Panic attacks are common for many people. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing – a panic attack can come on randomly and disrupt your day (or night). Over 6 million Americans suffer from panic attacks and between 44 percent and 71 percent of those people have also experienced panic attacks at night.

While it would seem that people should have more anxiety during the day, due to stresses of work and home, panic attacks at night are more common than you would think. Panic attacks at night are characterized by waking abruptly from sleep in a state of anxiety, and for no obvious reason. Episodes of panic attacks at night are generally over within ten minutes or so, but those few minutes can set the tone for sleeplessness the rest of the night. The physical symptoms of a panic attack include a sense of impending doom combined with a pounding and rapid heart beat, sweating, shakiness or dizziness, a feeling of shortness of breath or hyperventilating, and sometimes either chills or flushing. It can be hard to go back to sleep after the body is revved up from the attack. Also, the sense of panic during an attack is increased by the knowledge that these same symptoms can be signs of more serious conditions, such as a heart attack, which raises the person’s level of anxiety.

Part of the distress of panic attacks at night is the sense of loss of control. Patients suffering from an attack may also feel the night brings with it a sense of being defenseless while unconscious (sleeping) and the thought that something might happen while they are most vulnerable. Panic attacks at night can be precipitated by events that happened during the day. Things that happened during the day may be revisited at bedtime, causing anxiety before sleeping. Events at home may leave an emotional imprint on the mind, causing the patient to be more anxious than usual. Even eating late at night just before going to bed can keep the sufferer awake and make them more prone to panic attacks at night.

There are some things people can do to help them deal with panic attacks at night:

  1. Learn and practice calming techniques like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.
  2. Learn and practice slow, deep breathing exercises.
  3. Reduce stress at night by taking time to relax and forget the worries of the day before retiring to bed at night.
  4. Develop healthy eating habits and exercise programs to help reduce stress.

If these techniques are not enough to help you deal with panic attacks at night, counseling and medication are an important next step. Find a therapist who has experience in dealing with panic attacks at night. Treatment such as cognitive behavior therapy and anti-anxiety medications can alleviate or eliminate panic attacks for most people. Dr. Darvin Hege provides help for panic attacks in the Atlanta area. Dr. Hege most commonly prescribes Xanax XR, Klonopin, Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Effexor, or Cymbalta for panic attacks at night. For more information from Dr. Hege about panic attacks and the most effective medications for stopping panic attacks at night, go to thePanic Attacks Information page on his website.

Although having panic attacks at night can be a frightening experience, they aren’t something you just have to live with. Medications, therapy, and stress reduction can help sufferers face the night without fear.

Dr. Hege has 25 years of experience dealing with patients who have panic attacks at night. Call him today at 770-458-0007 for an evaluation for relief of your panic during the night, and for help deciding the most effective and safest treatment.

Panic Attacks And Pregnancy

Panic attacks and pregnancy simultaneously create risks for the fetus. Stress and anxiety in the mother increase adrenaline and cortisol that can reduce oxygen to the fetus and contribute to risks during labor and delivery. The peak age of onset is in the 20s and more women than men get panic attacks. Therefore, the incidence of panic attacks and pregnancy together is elevated. The prevalence of panic attacks and pregnancy is about 1 to 2%.

In a retrospective study of first onset of panic attacks in childbearing age women, 10 times as many women reported their first panic attack occurred in the first trimester of a pregnancy. Other retrospective studies suggested that breast-feeding reduced the risk of panic disorder during the postnatal period and weaning increased the risk. If a woman has had panic attacks before pregnancy, studies have suggested that they may have worsening of the panic attacks during pregnancy and/or the postnatal period if the panic disorder was severe.

Medical causes of panic attacks need to be ruled out. These include thyroid disorders, anemia, preeclampsia, and pheochromocytoma. Comorbid psychiatric conditions frequently underlie panic disorder. These include mild bipolar disorder, depression, ADHD, other anxiety disorders such as PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, or alcohol or drug abuse or withdrawal.

Panic attacks and pregnancy present challenges for treatment. Self-care strategies include elimination of caffeine, reduction of sleep deprivation, and relaxation techniques. Non-medication therapy with cognitive behavioral therapy with a professional therapist may be effective.

Medication treatment for panic attacks and pregnancy are often very helpful, but risk and benefit analysis include the following: as mentioned in the beginning there are medical, physical development, labor and delivery, postpartum, and later physical and mental developmental risks for the baby when the mother is having uncontrolled panic attacks during pregnancy, postpartum, and early childhood stages.
Now I will address some of the concerns of taking medication during panic attacks and pregnancy. Medications that help panic attacks the quickest are benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines include Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, Valium, Librium, Tranxene, and Serax. There was at least one study suggesting an increased risk of cleft palate if Valium is used during pregnancy. That suggestion was about a 1% risk. SSRIs retrospective studies have not suggested any congenital malformations except possibly in Paxil. Hence, the other SSRIs are first choice. These include Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro. The drawback of the SSRIs are that they require one to two weeks of administration before getting any benefit and one to two months before getting full benefit against panic attacks. Withdrawal or discontinuation symptoms of any of these medicines in the baby after delivery are additional concerns.

Dr. Hege has 25 years of experience dealing with patients who have panic attacks and pregnancy simultaneously. Call today at 770 458-0007 for an evaluation for relief of your panic during the planning or managing of a pregnancy or postpartum, and for help deciding the most effective and safest treatment.