A panic attack is a wave of sudden fear that triggers intense physical and psychological reactions and sensations. Debilitating, with immobilizing intensity. Panic attacks can often strike out of the blue, without warning, and sometimes with no obvious trigger. Even when you’re relaxed or asleep.
Whatever the reason or trigger or even with a lack of a trigger, the reaction to the immediate panic response is one of which that triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response.
You may experience one or more panic attacks, yet be otherwise perfectly happy and healthy. Or your panic attacks may occur as part of another disorder, such as panic disorder, social phobia, or depression.
For most people, a panic attack will last for between 5 and 20 minutes. Although some people have reported panic attacks to last up to an hour.
The number of panic attacks, the severity and the duration of each attack will depend on factors such as how severe your condition is and how you respond to them. Some people have panic attacks daily, while others might experience one or two a month and some even less frequently.
Panic attacks can be frightening experiences, but it’s important to remember that they are not dangerous. A panic attack won’t cause you any physical harm, nobody ever died from a panic attack and even though you may on occasion call for an ambulance, it’s rare that you’ll actually be admitted to hospital if you have one.
The symptoms experienced during a panic attack usually peak within minutes. And you are likely to feel fatigued and worn out once the panic attack subsides.
Some of the most common symptoms experienced during a panic attack are:
- Racing or rapid heart rate
- Feelings of weakness, feeling faint, or dizziness
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers
- A Sense of terror, or the fear of an impending doom or even death
- Sweating or chills, changes to your body temperature
- Chest pains, sharp stabbing pain in the middle of your chest
- Nausea, upset tummy and even vomiting
- Breathing difficulties, feeling of suffocation
- Feeling a loss of control or the fear of losing your mind
- Choking Sensations or difficulty swallowing
Disclaimer: It’s important to be aware that most of these symptoms can also be symptoms of other conditions or problems, so you may not always be experiencing a panic attack. A Youtube video, internet therapist or author of anxiety books should never replace the opinion of a doctor or trained professional. If you are at all concerned about the symptoms you experience during a panic attack then please do seek further assistance.
The symptoms of panic attacks occur due to a release of chemicals in to the body, including adrenaline which prepare you for the fight or flight response which is embedded in our psyche and is there to protect you. Once these chemicals are flowing around your system there is very little you can do other than allow time to pass. Creating rituals and safety behaviours to try and eliminate your panic attack will only lead to false reinforcement that the behaviours somehow reduced the amount of adrenaline in your system.
There are things you can do to help yourself try to reduce the amount of panic attacks you experience, things like: diet, exercise, caffeine and alcohol reduction, try to reduce stress, improve your sleeping routine, use calming breathing techniques and meditation and talking to people, friends, family or professionals.
But none of those things will stop a panic attack once it starts, only time will. Just remember you are in no danger and this too shall pass.