How does one live with mitral valve prolapse and panic attacks?
Managing mitral valve prolapse and panic attacks can be difficult. For people with symptoms, MVP is often tough to deal with all on its own. But with recurring bouts of extreme anxiety in the equation, living life can be considerably challenging.
Panic attacks are scary. They are frightening and intense. The symptoms can be so powerful that the sufferer thinks that he or she is going to die. Or, it may feel as though something terrible is about to happen. That is rarely ever the case, though.
Struggling to keep your MVP and panic attacks under control? You are not alone. Anxiety attacks are a common symptom of the mitral valve prolapse syndrome, which affects around 4 in 10 people with a prolapsing mitral valve. The good news is that panic anxiety can be treated and controlled. And it should be, as panic attacks can lead to anxiety disorders, phobias, and other problems.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack, or anxiety attack, is an episode of severe anxiety that occurs suddenly. Sufferers usually experience feelings of fear, apprehension, and dread with anxiety attacks, while there is no actual danger. These feelings may cause or be triggered by acute physical symptoms. Mitral valve prolapse and panic attacks are common, especially in those with the mitral prolapse syndrome.
During a panic attack, a person will experience at least four intense fight-or-flight symptoms, such as heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, and shortness of breath. These panic attack symptoms normally reach their peak within 10 minutes and dissolve within 30 minutes. Anxiety attacks can last up to an hour or even several hours, though, or until one receives treatment for anxiety panic.
Panic attacks, which are the main symptom of panic disorder, tend to occur out of the blue. However, it is not uncommon for panic sufferers with or without the MVP syndrome to develop a fear of or preoccupation with recurring attacks that triggers anxiety attacks. There may also be other panic attack triggers, such as stress, unusual sensations, and certain places or stimuli.
What does a panic attack feel like?
The panic attack experience is different for everyone. Some people feel like they are in an “escalating cycle of doom” or that they will “lose control.” Others feel like they are having a heart attack or suffocating as they hyperventilate and gasp for air. Despite these differences, there are typical anxiety attack symptoms, and most sufferers describe panic attacks as being rather terrifying.
Common symptoms of panic attacks include a pounding, racing, or irregular heartbeat (palpitations), pains or tightness in the chest (angina), and trouble breathing or a choking sensation. Other panic attack physical symptoms include shaking, twitching muscles, and perspiration, dizziness, hot flashes, chills, nausea, paralysis, and paresthesia. Some people experience derealization.
What does a panic attack feel like? It’s not pleasant. There are a lot of panic attack stories to confirm this. The after-effects are negative, too. After an attack, the sufferer will often feel drained, weak, and shaky, with soreness and discomfort in the chest and other areas. There may also be feelings of depression and panic attack fear, which can lead to panic disorder and agoraphobia.
What causes panic attacks?
There are many possible causes behind anxiety attacks. Heredity, for example, increases the likelihood that a person will have panic attacks and panic disorder, according to experts. That is, some people have a genetic predisposition for experiencing panic attacks and developing panic disorder. In research studies, the NTRK3 gene and TDAG8 receptor have been linked to panic anxiety.
A number of medical conditions and disorders are also associated with panic anxiety. These include postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Panic attacks also occur with greater frequency in those with Wilson’s disease, hypoglycemia, and hyperthyroidism, and, of course, the mitral valve prolapse syndrome.
Genes and disorders aside, major stresses and habits such as cigarette smoking, marijuana smoking, and excess consumption of caffeine (best to avoid with MVP) can cause or trigger panic attacks. Anxiety attacks can also be a side effect of numerous medications, including asthma drugs, ADHD medicines, and corticosteroids. In addition, drug withdrawal may bring on panic anxiety.
How are MVP and panic attacks linked?
Like mitral valve prolapse and anxiety, MVP and panic attacks are linked physically and psychologically. The physical connection has to do with what is going on inside the body. The psychological link involves what is happening in the mind. With mitral valve prolapse and panic attacks, the psychological effects typically occur as a response to the physical symptoms, at least initially.
MVP symptoms from a prolapsing mitral valve can be scary and bothersome, not to mention confusing – even more so when they accompany symptoms of dysautonomia (the autonomic dysfunction that occurs in individuals with the mitral valve prolapse syndrome). This can trigger devastating panic attack episodes that are incredibly frightening, leaving one mentally traumatized.
When a person experiences intense panic attacks that shock the body, there is usually a psychological impact. Following such episodes, the sufferer will often develop a strong fear of future attacks and become hypersensitive to physical sensations and their surroundings. This heightened sense of awareness and fear creates a situation where the mind can set off anxiety attacks.
Is it possible to stop panic attacks?
Yes. While it may or may not be possible to cure panic attacks completely, one can stop panic attacks with medication and psychotherapy – with or without MVP. These treatments are aimed at alleviating/eliminating symptoms, teaching how to cope with panic anxiety, and preventing anxiety attacks and complications. Getting prompt panic attack treatment is important, though.
SSRIs (such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil) and SNRI antidepressants (like Effexor and Cymbalta) are commonly prescribed for overcoming panic attacks and controlling panic disorder. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (e.g., Nardil and Marplan) are prescribed to a lesser extent. Benzodiazepine anxiety medication and beta blockers are other panic attack medications that can be helpful.
Exposure therapy is generally the preferred psychotherapy with panic attacks and panic disorder, as well as MVP. A form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, it involves inducing panic attack symptoms repeatedly until they no longer feel threatening. There are also newer treatments like neuro-activation therapy that teach how to cure panic attacks fast with easy-to-implement techniques.
What about natural remedies for panic attacks?
Apart from psychotherapy treatments, there are many natural panic attack remedies that can help with reducing anxiety attacks. They may even eliminate anxiety attacks altogether for some afflicted individuals. Experts agree that eating healthy (following a heart-healthy diet and avoiding alcohol and caffeine) is one of the best natural treatments for mitral valve prolapse and panic attacks.
Herbs and supplements such as magnesium, hops, and valerian, as well as chamomile and lavender, also come highly recommended to cure anxiety attacks. Inositol may possibly reduce the frequency and severity of attacks, but more research is needed. Getting regular exercise and quitting smoking and recreational drugs are other natural methods of stopping panic attacks and MVP symptoms.
Because a large percentage of panic sufferers hyperventilate, doctors often prescribe yoga, meditation, and slow/deep breathing exercises for anxiety attacks. Measured breathing balances oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. It slows the heart rate and calms the systems in the body that activate the fight or flight response, decreasing the severity of acute panic attacks relatively quickly.
What else should you know about panic attacks?
Anxiety attacks affect approximately 11 percent of the population in the United States and 3 percent in Europe, panic attack statistics show. Often beginning in early adulthood, they tend to occur most commonly in women and less commonly in children and the elderly. Panic disorder affects around 2-3 percent of U.S. adults, with agoraphobia present in around 36% of sufferers worldwide.
Some individuals with MVP and panic anxiety experience limited symptom panic attacks. These anxiety attacks, which are common with panic disorder and social phobia, meet the standard criteria for full-blown panic attacks but present with less than four physical panic attack symptoms. The symptoms of limited anxiety attacks may or may not occur at the same time.
There are many different solutions for preventing and reducing panic attacks, but it’s always wise to consult a medical professional before starting any panic attack treatment. This is especially important if one is pregnant or has mitral valve prolapse and panic attacks or other health problems, as some treatments (medications, supplements, exercises, etc.) may not be safe or appropriate.