In the event of a panic attack, the last thing you should do is let the thought of the attack frighten you. Many people who experience panic attacks may not be aware of what is happening to them. This fear of the unknown may increase the intensity of the attack. If you are someone who has experienced a panic attack and want to understand what in the world is going on, this article should be able to help you out.
What Are Panic Attacks?
When animals are threatened, they experience “hyper-arousal” or what is commonly called the “fight or flight” response. On the other hand, panic attacks cause your body to perceive itself as being under attack even when there is no imminent danger. This period is characterized by a feeling of intense fear to the extent that it leaves you unable to perform regular activities or think clearly.
Are They Common?
Panic attacks tend to occur among people who are highly stressed, have experienced psychological trauma, suffer from anxiety disorders or drug abuse. There is some evidence that suggests that panic disorders can even be inherited. According to the National Institute Of Mental Health, about 2.7% of the adult U.S. population have experienced panic attacks over the course of a 12-month period. Also, a little less than half of the aforementioned cases have been classified as severe.
What Are The Symptoms?
When you’re under a panic attack, you are likely to experience some of these symptoms. It is important to note that experiencing just one or two of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having a panic attack and it is always best to talk to your doctor about them.
You may feel like your lungs don’t work anymore or may suddenly “forget how to breathe”. Suffocation and a feeling of lightheadedness might arise as a result of this. There are mixed evidences on the effect of breathing into a paper bag to help relieve the hyperventilation symptoms in patients with panic disorder.
Similar to the feeling of forgetting how to breathe, you may also experience the same effect while swallowing or while trying to breathe orally.
You may experience severe dizziness to the extent that you are unable to walk or even move. Blurry vision, lightheadedness and headaches are a few other symptoms that people have reported along with dizziness.
Profuse sweating is another occurrence that may take place during a panic attack. Although, sweating is relatively common and may even take place when people are generally nervous or anxious. People who have experienced panic attacks have also experienced hot flashes and chills.
Just as anyone would tremble during a life-threatening situation, your body may shake during a panic attack. The increased flow of blood and the nerves on high alert may not help you in your effort to stay still.
Alongside the difficulty in breathing, you may also face a tremendous increase in heart rate as a result of the adrenaline rush. This may cause discomfort and maybe even pain in some rare cases. Although panic disorders are not likely to cause any drastic physical damage to your body, it is advisable to get these symptoms checked out by a professional.
How Long Do They Last?
Panic attacks take place differently in different people. On average, it has been reported that they last for about thirty minutes. They may also occur as extremely short attacks that last for about ten seconds or even long episodes that last for around an hour.
What Should You Do?
It May Be Ironic- But Don’t Panic
Most people think they’re “becoming insane” when they have a panic attack. This doesn’t help the situation at all. The first and foremost thing is to understand that panic attacks are an existing condition and that you are not the only person going through it.
Talk To A Medical Professional
Talk to your doctor about the symptoms you’ve faced and the stress that you might be undertaking at school or work. Your doctor might suggest cognitive or behavioral therapy or medication depending on the intensity and frequency of the attacks. In most cases, just being informed about what is going on helps get over the attacks to a large extent.
Understand What The Root Cause Is
After the panic attack subsides and you’re able to think calmly and clearly again, try and evaluate if there is a specific trigger that is causing your attack. Once you understand what is causing the attacks, treatment or therapy will be much easier.