"Out-of-the-Blue" Panic Attacks Give Warning One Hour Beforehand

Panic attacks that appear to strike sufferers with no warning actually occur roughly one hour after significant physiological instabilities take place.

According to a recent study, panic attacks that appear to strike sufferers with no warning actually occur roughly one hour after significant physiological instabilities take place in the individual.

The study focused on individuals prone to suffering panic attacks and monitored them for twenty-four hour periods while they went about their daily activities. Using this method of observation, the researchers were able to capture panic attacks in their full spectrum (before, after, and during).

According to lead researcher of the study and psychologist Alicia E. Meuret, the researchers found waves of significant physiological instability for at least sixty minutes preceding the patients’ awareness of the panic attacks.

Portable recorders were able to record eight physiological indicators of the panic attacks, including changes in respiration, exhibited by deep, fast, or irregular breathing, as well as cardiac activity. Sweating was also a noted indicator.

Most noteworthy was the discovery that the ranges of the patients’ carbon dioxide, or C02, levels were unusually low, which indicates that the patients were chronically hyperventilating. These levels rose considerably, however, just before the panic attacks began and were connected to patient reports of anxiety, fear of dying, and chest pain.

These findings imply that individuals who sufferer from panic attacks could be highly sensitive to an accumulating pattern of subtle physiological instabilities that occur before an attack, but are unaware of such patterns, Meuret reported.

The finding was reported in the journal Biological Psychiatry.