Woman having silent panic attacks about her future situation

Understanding Silent Panic Attacks

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Usually, someone who is in the midst of a panic attack will exhibit physical symptoms that indicate they are in crisis. Sometimes, though – in cases that are referred to as silent panic attacks – there will be no outward signs of the pain that the individual is experiencing.

About Silent Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are extremely distressing episodes of anxiety that can cause a person to believe that they are literally about to die. These experiences can be divided into two categories: regular (or typical) panic attacks and silent panic attacks.

Difference Between a Silent Panic Attack and a Regular Panic Attack

The primary difference between a silent panic attack and a “regular” panic attack is that the silent version usually doesn’t involve obvious physical symptoms.

For example, when a person is having a typical panic attack, they may begin to sweat profusely, tremble or shake, gasp for air, and indicate that they are experiencing chest pains. These types of symptoms, which can be quite similar to what a person might feel if they were having a heart attack, are usually accompanied by a variety of upsetting psychological effects.

When a person has a silent panic attack, the psychological impact can be just as severe (as we will elaborate on in the next section), but the physical effects will be minimized and far less noticeable. 

Signs and Symptoms of Silent Panic Attacks

If you develop the following symptoms, you may be having a silent panic attack:

  • Sudden overwhelming fear or dread
  • Sense of unavoidable impending doom
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Derealization (sense of being detached from your surroundings, as though you are viewing your environment through a distorted lens)
  • Depersonalization (sense of being separated from your body, thoughts, and feelings)
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating

If you have experienced these types of symptoms, please consider consulting with your family doctor or another qualified healthcare provider. Completing a thorough evaluation and receiving an accurate diagnosis are important steps on the path toward appropriate treatment and improved health.

What Causes a Silent Panic Attack?

There is no single universal cause of typical or silent panic attacks.. However, experts have identified several factors that can raise a person’s risk for these types of episodes, such as:

  • Certain genetic variations
  • Family history of panic attacks 
  • Personal history of anxiety, depression, and certain other mental illnesses
  • Untreated trauma, especially related to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • Exposure to considerable stress or pressure
  • Major life changes
  • Habits such as smoking and excessive caffeine intake
  • Abnormal functioning in areas of the brain that are associated with the body’s “fight or flight” response

Treatment Options for Silent Panic Attacks

Personalization is an essential characteristic of effective treatment for silent panic attacks. Even if two people have identical or virtually identical symptoms, they may not benefit from the same type of treatment. 

Medication and therapy are often the fundamental elements of care – but there are a range of options in terms of which medications and what types of therapy may be right for each person.

Information that can influence treatment decisions include:

  • Does the individual have a history of trauma?
  • Are they struggling with any co-occurring mental health disorders?
  • Have they been abusing drugs, or have they developed an addiction?
  • How have the silent panic attacks impacted their life?
  • What type of personal support network do they have?
  • Have they previously been treated for silent panic attacks or other concerns?
  • What do they expect to achieve via treatment?

Following a thorough assessment that considers these and other relevant pieces of information, a person’s treatment team may recommend that they begin at either the inpatient or outpatient level.

Once the ideal level of care has been identified, the next step is determining which therapies and support services are most appropriate. Options in these areas may include:

  • Medication management 
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Life skills education
  • Symptom-management education
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

This is by no means a comprehensive list of every therapy or service that can help someone who has been having silent panic attacks. As we alluded to at the beginning of this section, what’s most important is finding a provider that can customize their services to best reflect each patient’s specific needs and goals.

Contact Montare About Treatment for Panic Attacks Today

Untreated panic attacks can have a profound negative effect on your quality of life. In addition to the acute distress of the attacks themselves, the fear that one may occur at any time for no apparent reason can undermine your ability to fully engage in a healthy and satisfying lifestyle.

If you have been experiencing these types of episodes, Montare Behavioral Health is here to help. At multiple centers in convenient locations throughout Southern California, we offer comprehensive, personalized programming for adults whose lives have been disrupted by panic attacks, panic disorder, and a wide range of other mental health concerns.

When you choose Montare Behavioral Health, you can expect to receive customized care from experienced professionals within a safe and highly supportive environment. Our dedicated caregivers will assess the full scope of your needs. You will receive the focused services that can help you manage your symptoms and regain control of your life.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.