CREW HEALTH ADVICE FOR EXCESSIVE STRESS AND PANIC ATTACKS

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Seafarers, who are often exposed to adverse working conditions with multiple stressors, are a population at acute risk of panic attacks.

The UK P&I Club recently received a report of seafarer repatriated and diagnosed with panic disorder, insomnia (allegedly due to his work schedule) and depression, says in article published on their website.

•What is Panic Disorder?

Seafarers can experience high levels of stress in their job. A life at sea entails dangers that are not present in many other occupations. Seafarers work under threat of injury from accidents, piracy and illness. Stressors in seafarers can be personal or directly connected to work conditions.

Personal stressors are referred to in terms of how satisfied the seafarer is with his or her work, and the self-perceptions associated with their work. Occupational stressors entail the specific adverse conditions and hazards associated with their work, such as the work being overly strenuous or repetitive, the physical risks associated with their post, their career prospects, employment and compensation and the separation from their loved ones.

Accidents that result in injury and pirate attacks can also be traumatising for the individual seafarer, intensifying anxiety and fear. High levels of exposure to stressors can lead to panic attacks.

•Symptoms

Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate.
Sweating.
Trembling or shaking.
Shortness of breath or feeling smothered.
Feelings of choking.
Chest pain or discomfort.
Experiencing feelings of unreality or being detached from yourself.
Fear of losing control.
Fear of dying.
Characteristics

Panic Disorder is most commonly occurring between the ages 20 to 45, with occurrence earlier and later than that being rare. The disorder is chronic if left untreated and it waxes and wanes depending on the circumstances of the individual. The main cause of fear for individuals suffering from the disorder are the associated physical symptoms and fear of death.

Panic Disorder is associated with disability and it has drastic effects on social and occupational functionality, particularly if the panic attacks are associated with social or work-related circumstances.

•Causes for Panic Disorder

It can be associated with temperament, particularly sensitivity to anxiety and neuroticism, as well as environmental causes, particularly specific stressors that are usually identified before the first panic attack occurs.

Seafarers are constantly exposed to stressors and many develop issues with anxiety, and therefore Panic Disorder can occur, particularly in individuals with a genetic and temperamental predisposition to the condition.

Seafarers affected by Panic Disorder can have a high degree of job fatigue or quit their jobs to avoid the stressors that onset their panic attacks. Their overall quality of life can be affected if they do not seek treatment.

These distinctions are important so it is crucial to turn to a licensed mental health professional before assuming that you or someone close to you is experiences Panic Disorder.

•Treatment

Panic Disorder is treated through therapy and medication. Anxiolytic medication is used for immediate relief from panic attacks, such as Xanax or Ativan, although they should not be used long-term. Certain antidepressant medications, such as Prozac, can be used to prevent panic attacks and are often prescribed as a first line of treatment.

The most effective treatment for anxiety disorders, including Panic Disorder is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT involves identifying, challenging and replacing negative thoughts with realistic ones, recognising symptoms, learning coping skills and confronting fears. CBT can teach individuals suffering from Panic Disorder to deal with their panic attacks by helping them recognise what is happening to them and desensitising them from anxiety.

•Helping Seafarers

Enhanced job security, as well as less time away from their families can reduce anxiety and reduce stressors that may result in panic attacks. A review of working hours and ensuring adequate time for rest, improving the occupational conditions by doing whatever possible to minimise accidents, having more accessible first aid and reducing the time spent at sea can help improve both the physical and psychological wellbeing of seafarers, including the prevention of panic attacks.

Panic attacks can be prevented by the seafarer on board by using relaxation techniques, practicing mindfulness, meditation, exercising and sleeping and eating well and avoiding stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine.

•Summary

Seafarers, who are often exposed to adverse working conditions with multiple stressors, are a population at acute risk of panic attacks.
Accidents that result in injury and pirate attacks can also be traumatising for the individual seafarer, intensifying anxiety and fear. High levels of exposure to stressors can lead to panic attacks.
Seafarers are constantly exposed to stressors and many develop issues with anxiety, and therefore Panic Disorder can occur.
The most effective treatment for anxiety disorders, including Panic Disorder is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Enhanced job security, as well as less time away from their families can reduce anxiety and reduce stressors that may result in panic attacks.

Source: UK P&I