Are they really panic attacks?

Skywatcher

MyPTSD Pro
I’ve been calling the following examples panic attacks, but then I read a thing about panic attacks for people with anxiety and now I’m confused.

example: I read something that triggers a flashback and I relive the emotions of the event which cause intense panic, escape, crying, shaking. Is it a panic attack from a flashback or just a flashback?

next day: I’m driving and briefly think of my child drinking in a bar and I relive the panic, emotion crying feelings. Panic attack or flash back?

I have GAD and ptsd on my psychiatrist chart. My therapist also has that down but says I have complex ptsd which I agree with, but am I labeling things correctly about panic attacks? (I usually tell her it was triggered by a flashback).
 

Sideways

Moderator
I get "emotional flashbacks" - like, instead of sensory stuff (being able to smell something, or feel something physically happening to my body), it's a wave of the emotions I was feeling at the time.

They can then trigger a panic attack (textbook anxiety response: sweating, hyperventilating, suddenly need to vomit/pee, need to escape, etc), but that's not so common for me now that I know what's going on for me, because when I recognise "this is an emotional flashback", it's definitely time to stop, ground, and bring things back to calm and present (usually through breathing exercises and using my assistance dog).

Does that sound similar?
 

Skywatcher

MyPTSD Pro
@Sideways It does, which I just assumed I was bringing myself out of the panic attack. I’m just wondering how or why I have a label of GAD and maybe a panic disorder when I’m really just hyper vigilant, having emotional flashbacks and ptsd type behaviors.
 

Sideways

Moderator
how or why I have a label of GAD and maybe a panic disorder when I’m really just
Your doc may have decided that your anxiety response rises to the level of an anxiety disorder, even with ptsd on board. S, they're clinically significant irrespective of the fact that you have ptsd and trauma causing them.

For example, higher levels of both depression and anxiety are consistent with my cptsd diagnosis, but I have periods where my depression rises to the level of a major depressive episode. During those episodes, my pdoc changes my diagnosis to include MDD.

As you work through your recovery, you may find that just being able to tease out the different issues (eg. I'm having emotional flashbacks, and they're triggering a panic attack) allows you to address things more specifically. Which is awesome, because that gives you a chance to nip your panic attacks in the bud before they get your SUDS up to 10/10.

In time, the goal would be to have enough management skills and experience on board that you no longer have the consequent panic attacks, at which point you may lose the GAD diagnosis.

While panic attacks are common with ptsd, as are emotional flashbacks, if your doc diagnoses you with both ptsd and GAD, it indicates that you meet the diagnostic criteria of both disorders, even though both stem from the same thing (underlying trauma).

For example for me, I have definitely reduced the severity and frequency of my MDE by treating the underlying trauma issues.
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
I think the GAD really sits more in worrying about present and especially future things. (I’m also PTSD/GAD). Like the f*cking worry machine starts and you’re just watching your thoughts circling over and over. And that can trigger panic attacks too. For me it’s quite rare but when I have a panic attack it’s generally a visual and emotional flashback, something imminent that is happening that is confirming a worry. Generally it makes me vomit and sweat and have difficulty breathing, plus a very disagreeable burning sensation around the back, the shoulders and the arm. I think everyone has quite diverse physiological manifestations of panic attacks, and they might vary in intensity too.
 

Skywatcher

MyPTSD Pro
I think mine is different. Pretty much every panic attack I have had has stemmed from either a flashback or a trauma trigger that causes me intense fear or visuals of what could happen to my children or self in the future based on the past. But I also have intense hyper vigilance and anxiety that keeps me from doing normal life. Maybe my GAD stems from that.
 
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