What You Should Know About a Panic Attack
by Penevska Natasha
Panic attacks are usually sudden and unexpected waves of an intense discomfort and fear. What makes them different from other medical conditions, such as anxiety disorder, is that they last relatively briefly, from 5 up to 30 minutes maximum. However, they are experienced as if they last a whole eternity.
Unfortunately, the number of people who suffer from panic attacks seems to be in a continual growth. The dominant symptoms are
- Heart palpitations, or the feeling when the heart is pounding and racing, sometimes followed by an irregular pattern of heart beating (arrhythmia),
- Chest pain and breathlessness,
- Tongue or throat numbness and swelling,
- Cold sweat,
- Heat waves,
- Body trembling and shaking,
- Intensive fear of death, losing consciousness, losing control over self, or going mad,
- Depersonalization or derealisation, or detaching from self and reality
- Muscle weakness and spasms,
- Stomach cramps and nausea
- Pain in certain body parts.
The person does not always have all of the symptoms. Generally, if four of these symptoms are present, it is considered that the person is experiencing a panic attack.
The fact that the person knows what is happening at that moment and is conscious of one’s own state just worsens the symptoms and elongates the duration of the panic attack.
People who have experienced a panic attack are usually terrified from it and might develop a phobia of experiencing another one. This causes unease and mental tension which increases the possibility of the attack to reappear in another situation. Fearing this, many people can tend to stay home where they feel safe. This results in their alienation from other people, often close relatives as well, and deprive themselves of many social interactions, avoid meetings and events and miss new experiences. Hence, the appearance of a social isolation is a usual complication which inevitably brings a state of depression and hopelessness, accompanied with ceaseless contemplation of the state and feelings of isolation and loneliness.
To Whom Can It Happen?
A panic attack can happen to anyone. However, people who suffer from excessive nervousness and anxiety, continual worries and need to place themselves in a good light or please others is the target group who would be at a greater risk. In this group are also the people who are always careful, sometimes too careful, those who are under a lot of pressure not to make a mistake, those who are too self-conscious, those who say that they cannot bear injustice, the ones referred to as “the strong ones”, who do not show their emotions, as well as those who too often overstress themselves with obligations and work without giving themselves some break time. What all these people have in common is the fact that all of the things they do just contribute to stress.
Understanding the Psychology Behind Panic Attacks
The greatest number of people who suffer from panic disorder have conscious or unconscious physiological (physical) or psychological stressors. These stressors release stress hormones, such as Cortisol, and they are the most usual triggers for the occurrence of panic attacks.
These stressors are internal or external factors which cause the person to feel threatened. As a response, the organism inappropriately triggers a fight-or-flight reaction, which is realized through a panic attack.
The physical stressors are the ones that affect the body physically such as extremely elevated or lowered temperatures in the environment, other elevated external stimuli, injury and pain or chronic illness.
The psychological stressors refer to everyday events which cause agitation, meaningful changes and transitions in life, workplace relationships and obligations, chemical factors such as tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, or certain social situations.
Have You Experienced a Panic Attack? Do You Fear That It Might Happen Again?
If the answer is yes, then you should not worry. This is a normal reaction which occurs in everyone who has experienced a panic attack. The difference is that some people overstress themselves with this fear, and others do not let it take over their everyday life.
How You Can Help Yourself
Increasing your physical activity, such as easy aerobics, stretching or warm-up exercises, a jog can be of great help. It causes your body to release more endorphins, which on the one hand are crucial de-stressors and on the other hand improve and boost the mood. Sometimes, even the most simple physical activity such as a walk in the park, a calm and quiet street or any other relaxing place can be very useful, because this enables the person to unwind and eliminate negative thoughts. Moreover, cool and fresh air and the sun are always welcome.
Yoga is also advisable because it presents a unique and perfect combination of stretching and breading exercises which can help you decrease the muscular tension to a great extent and reach a state of relaxation.
Another activity that should be added in the everyday routine is meditation. Meditation does not have to be a process which lasts hours; any quiet mindfulness and mind focusing to even breathing and calmness can be regarded as meditation, even if it lasts a couple of minutes. So, take a deep breath and meditate every day, at least two times a day, once in the morning and once before going to bed. If you have time, you can use another 5-10 minutes during the day just to close your eyes, relax, focus on your breathing and imagine how the negative energy leaves your body and positive energy takes its place.
Keeping a Journal
Find an expressive way to cope with your situation. Keep a diary or a journal to record your everyday activities, events and tasks. Reserve one corner for tracking panic attacks, their triggers, how you coped with them and how successful it was. There are many online ideas and free templates you can use.
An individual solution for each person individually
It is said by many that each attack is unique and different from the rest and that each person experiences them differently. That is why to overcome them you need to find a unique solution, which would suit your personality and needs. In order for you to come to this kind of solution, it is necessary that you request help. It is crucial for you not to be ashamed of your situation and not to hesitate to ask for the help you need and you deserve.
The principal thing to do is consult a medical person and do a thorough health examination. It is very important that the doctor to check if the experienced phenomenon is a result of a panic attack or a symptom of another medical condition, for example, a heart dysfunction, thyroid problems, breathing disorders, and other illnesses. If the doctor states that it is a question of a panic attack, then the normal health diagnosis can help you in great extent in overcoming the irrational fears of illness and death, which usually appear during the panic attack.
One of the most usual ways of panic attack treatment is a combination of medication treatment and psychotherapy. Medication treatment is generally focused on calming and treating the nervous system, while psychotherapy aims to overcome anxiety through reinforcement of individual systems for support and finding effective ways of relaxation. A psychotherapist can also help you find the source of the stress, i.e. the trigger of the panic disorder, and help you create a strategy for overcoming it. In addition, support groups are also a good way of overcoming the problem, because they offer the chance to listen to other people’s ways of coping with similar problems and use their experience.
In conclusion, the most important thing is not to give up and try everything that can improve your state.