Anxiety is a pervasive and emerging problem in the developing world, affecting almost 18.1 percent of the US population every year. Anxiety can manifest itself in many forms, one of them being panic attacks. Panic attacks are one of the most severe forms of anxiety, and they emerge as a feeling of extreme unease and stress – basically a rush of intense physical and mental conditions symbolizing worry and fear. When such an attack happens repeatedly, you often find yourself worrying about the next episode that might come ringing the bells without any notice. That is when you know you have Panic Attack Disorder. This vicious cycle of ‘living in fear of fear’ can significantly affect your quality of life.
Panic attacks can be frightening. They can make you feel like you’re losing control over your body and mind, having a heart attack, or even dying. These attacks become recurrent and unexpected, catching you off guard whether you’re driving a car, attending a business meeting or experiencing a sound sleep. Most panic attacks last between 5 and 20 minutes, an average of 10 minutes.
The chest pain of a panic attack occurs in the mid-chest area, followed by rapid breathing, pounding heart rate, and a sense of fear consuming you. It is essential to remind yourself that the terror experienced is not proportional to the actual situation. Since there is no real danger or apparent cause, this condition is not life-threatening.
Here are some of the main symptoms of panic attack disorder that you should know about:
One of the physical signs of a panic attack includes uncontrollable shaking and trembling while also having sweats, chills, and hot flushes. This results from your body’s natural response to fear- the reaction of fight-or-flight that prepares the body to either flee or fight off a real or imaginary hazard. You can feel the blood rushing through your body to maximize the supply of oxygen and nutrients, which appears in the form of shakes.
Shortness of Breath
Another symptom of a panic attack is a change in your breathing pattern. What you can experience may vary from shortness of breath to a choking sensation, feeling like you may die of suffocation. People tend to hyperventilate when they feel anxious. This synthetic form of breathing is rapid and shallow – as you take more breaths than usual in a given minute. It doesn’t allow you to inhale sufficient oxygen and deprives the brain of it. When your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, you feel dizzy and experience lightheadedness. These attacks undoubtedly, leave you feeling exhausted and tired.
A panic attack brings a load of stress and tension into the moment, which causes nausea. You feel an intense urge to vomit, but you don’t always throw up. It can also involve abdominal pain, intense fatigue, dizziness, a feeling of sickness, and muscle pain. This happens because your digestive systems feel a rush of adrenaline and tension which alter digestive enzymes and cause your body to go into a discomforting condition of sickness. Nausea comes and goes, but it leaves you feeling weaker, and you may pass out in extreme cases.
A Sense of Detachment
Since panic attack comes with fear of loss of control or death, a sense of impending doom or danger, and feelings of going crazy, the body finally brings one solution for it all. It’s a sense of detachment from reality, which feels like you’re not connected to your body or surroundings. It is believed to be a natural coping mechanism created within our bodies, where the mind decides to tune the world out and shut out any feelings experienced from within, at least temporarily.
If you’re experiencing detachment and dissociation during a panic attack or in daily life, consult your doctor for further advice.
The Bottom Line
Some people may experience panic attacks as often as several times a week, while others experience them once or twice a month. One thing is evident though, when the attack comes, it comes without warning and brings along terror. People may experience some or all of the symptoms mentioned above. Although it is unlikely that you’ll end up in a hospital upon experiencing these, the fright that comes with the attack urges people to seek psychological help, and the good news is that it can easily be treated.
At Houston OCD Counseling, we’ve got professional therapists that can help you with your panic attack disorder. Get in touch with us, and you’ll find us there to help you at every step.