What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden feeling of intense fear, apprehension and anxiety whereby the individual often feels like they are having heart attack-type symptoms. It’s important to note here that while panic attacks can be both frightening and disruptive to everyday life, they are not dangerous.  They can be alleviated, managed and eradicated with successful therapy.

Symptoms of panic disorder.

The symptoms of a panic attack can be very frightening and distressing.  They tend to occur suddenly, without warning and often for no reason.

As well as overwhelming and often intense feelings of anxiety and stress, a panic attack can also be accompanied by a variety of additional symptoms, including:

  • feeling as though your heart is beating irregularly (palpatations);
  • sweating;
  • trembling;
  • hot flushes;
  • chills;
  • shallowness or shortness of breath;
  • a choking sensation;
  • chest pain;
  • nausea or a churning stomach;
  • dizziness;
  • feeling faint;
  • numbness or feeling pins and needles;
  • dry mouth;
  • needing to go to the toilet;
  • a ringing in your ears;
  • a feeling of dread or a fear of dying;
  • shivering; or
  • shaking.

The physical symptoms of a panic attack are unpleasant, and they can also be accompanied by thoughts of fear and terror.

Often people with panic disorder start to fear the next attack.  This leads to a cycle of living in ‘fear of fear’ and adds to the sense of panic.

Sometimes, the symptoms of a panic attack can be so intense they can make you feel like you’re having a heart attack or the impending fear brought on by a panic attack can make you feel as though you are about to die.  It can be a genuinely terrifying experience for the sufferer.

It is important to be aware however, that symptoms such as a racing heartbeat and shortness of breath won’t result in you having a heart attack and you can’t die from a panic attack.  Although a panic attack can be incredibly frightening, however, it in itself can’t cause any physical harm. People who have had panic disorder for some time usually learn to recognise the sensations involved and become more aware of how to control their symptoms.

Most panic attacks last for five to 20 minutes.  Some attacks have been reported to have lasted much longer.

People with panic disorder often have panic attacks on a recurring basis. Some people have attacks once or twice a month, while others have them several times a week.

People with panic disorder also tend to have ongoing and constant feelings of worry and anxiety. The panic attacks associated with panic disorder can also be very unpredictable.

If you have panic disorder, you may also feel anxious about when your next attack will be.  You might find that you avoid certain situations or engage in safety seeking behaviour which you may find limits your daily life.

If you’re suffering with panic attacks and/or panic disorder then get in touch today!  Contact me for a free 20 minute face-to-face meeting or to book a complete initial consultation.

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