Panic Attacks- Terrifying and Debilitating

Many people will suffer some level of anxiety in their life, but for some, this can cause an acute response known as a panic attack. This is where the body has an extreme reaction with an overload of physiological issues to fear or anxiety. Panic attacks are normally relatively short, lasting minutes (whereas anxiety attacks, are less intense and may last longer), but the time someone is enduring a panic attack can feel like a lifetime.

At this point it feels important to mention that panic attacks can have mental/emotional origin, but there can also be physical illnesses that cause them too, so if you have experienced a panic attack then it is always advisable to go and get yourself checked out at the doctor to identify if there is a physical cause for the attack.

People have different reactions for this, but there is generally a big adrenalin rush and this may be felt in the chest. Someone might also experience
~Breathlessness
~Hyperventilation
~Feeling unable to breathe
~Upset stomach
~Tearfulness
~Chest pain
~Racing thoughts
~Sweating
~Shaking
~Racing heartbeat
~Pins and needles
~Fainting (or feeling faint)

Along with the physiological response, someone might emotionally or mentally experience
~Intense fear
~Desperation
~A need to escape

Working on the presumption that someone has been checked by a doctor, and the panic attack was caused by something emotional or mental, then it feels important to understand what situations can cause a panic attack. Sadly, or maybe more frighteningly, anything can cause panic attacks, but, initially, they could be caused by a trauma (which can mean many things, could be an accident, a health scare, a loss, or something else), being confronted with something someone is phobic of or something else. For some people, panic attacks can be triggered in specific situations (such as doing a presentation, being with a specific person), whereas others can be more ‘random’ when they hit, with no apparent pattern.

For some people, if they experience one, then the terror associated with it, can cause anxiety or terror (or panic) at having another one. This means that, sadly, panic attacks can become a vicious cycle, leaving the sufferer crippled by the fear, living in fear and sometimes being ruled by the fear. Some people might worry they will have an attack in a specific situation, or specific place, or if confronted by something specific (such as if they have a phobia), and will do their best to manage that. In their best efforts, this can be avoidance which unfortunately, feeds the anxiety about panic, but can feel like the safest way of managing the fear of panic. That said, the fear of the panic is so strong that avoidance can feel like this only option.

The other problem with panic attacks is that people may not understand. Other people may judge, which can then exaccerbate the fear too and link it in with anxieties and worries about other people too; the fear spreads.

It can be helpful to know that panic attacks, with mental/emotional origin are not a life sentence. There is help available. Therapy can be incredibly useful. I personally favour BWRT® for working with someone who is dealing with panic attacks, but hypnotherapy can help too. Some people respond to CBT, equally, for some people, they prefer counselling. Mindfulness can also be a useful addition to the life of someone struggling with panic attacks or anxiety. When the person goes to the doctor, the doctor may also suggest medication of some sort.

What is important for the sufferer is to know that s/he is in control and can choose what road to go down to help themselves- whatever that may be.

Remember though, if this relates to you, then please know you’re not alone, and that there is hope. It can change. You can reclaim your life back. You can do it.

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