Understanding Panic Attacks

What exactly are panic attacks? Simply put a panic attack is a type of anxiety disorder that causes repeated attacks of fear that something bad is going to happen when it’s not expected. Panic attacks can leave you feeling vulnerable and give you the urge to leave a situation you’re in..immediately! This is know as, ‘Flight or Fight.’ Panic attacks can happen anywhere without warning: grocery stores, while driving your car, at work or at home. There is no particular place or time a panic attack will strike. A person who experiences a panic attack for the first time may think they are having a heart attack or losing their mind. Reasons for this are due to the symptoms of the attack. Symptoms can include a numb sensation throughout the body, tingling in the face, arms, and legs, rapid and heavy breathing, (similar to hyperventilation), heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness, sweating or chills, feeling light headed and feeling nauseated.

Panic attacks usually strike suddenly and intensify within 10 – 15 minutes. After the initial onset, the attack will start to subside over the next several hours, however; a sense of the attack may linger for longer. Panic attacks occur when large amounts of hormones, especially epinephrine floods the body as a way of defending against harm. Some of the things that can cause an onset of panic attacks include: stress, caffeine, nicotine, and holding your feelings inside.

Experiencing a panic attack is extremely frightening. Fear of having another panic attack can cause a person to withdraw to a safe place, usually their homes. This can become debilitating, causing the person to not want to leave. Panic attacks can also be hereditary. Talk to your doctor if panic attacks run in your family.

If you suffer from panic attacks there are things you can do, and help you can seek to learn how to live a normal active life. Talk to your doctor for classes offered on managing panic attacks, or medications that might work for you. If you are having a panic attack, try not to panic. Recognize what is happening and fight the urge to leave to get to your safe zone. Panic attacks can feel like you’re going to die, but you won’t. Some immediate suggestions to help with the attack are: putting a cold rag on the back of your neck, or go to an area where it is cool. Take your focus off the attack and put it onto something you enjoy doing. If an attack happens at work, talk to a co-worker, or even your boss about projects you’re working on, to keep your mind off of the attack. Slow your breathing down. If you feel like you are starting to hyperventilate, breath into a brown paper bag to replenish your oxygen. Panic attacks feel scary, but they don’t have to be.