Panic Attacks

(Or Panic Disorder)

Do you suffer from panic attacks ? What is a panic attack?

People who suffer from anxiety will be anxious or slightly panicky or "on edge" most of the time.
Some of you may have a sudden rush of panic which is very intense. This sudden episode or "attack" is called a "panic attack". (PA)

There is sometimes a stimulus for the panic attack for example a stimulus like being shouted out or the thought of having to perform in front of a crowd of people.

Such stimuli could cause anxiety in most of us but those of you who suffer a PA in such circumstances are demonstrating an exaggerated response.

Who gets PAs?

About one in a hundred adults will get PAs and is more common in women than men. There is some evidence that if a family member has had PA's then it is more likely that you will get them too.

What are the features of a PA?

If we think about stereotypical PA's as seen in movies you may recall seeing someone fighting for their breath and then being made to breath into a paper bag. Now there is some confusion here.
If you are asthmatic and you experience sudden anxiety or fear, your airways may well constrict.

You will find it hard to breath, go red or purple in the face and breathing into a paper bag is not what you need - you need your inhaler !

Some people but not all when having a PA will experience fast or rapid breathing in an uncontrolled manner. What happens here is that your body loses carbon dioxide gas from the blood which causes all sorts of effects including tightness of the chest which might lead them into thinking that they are having a heart attack which causes more anxiety and more symptoms !

It is in this case that breathing into a paper bag will help matters because the carbon dioxide gas breathed out will gather in the bag and then you breath it back in again and so start to reverse the chemical effects and slow things down.- Very clever !

The Common Features of PA's are

1) They come on really fast with no or little warning
2) They are intense
3) They last up to an hour
4) They produce both psychological and physical responses.
5) They typically start with no apparent trigger or cause although the victims may well have an associated anxiety disorder

What are the symptoms of a PA?

Some sufferers may be mentally confused and fear impending death

There must be physical symptoms and these are the same as the physical symptoms of anxiety. To be called a PA, you need to have at least three of them.

Palpitations - This is where we can feel our hearts beating loudly or faster than normal.

Sweating – Adrenaline makes this happen to keep us cool if we are expecting to burn more calories in a fight or running away from danger 

Tremor or shaking – Adrenaline stimulates the nervous system

Dry mouth – Saliva (spit) production is reduced because in the circumstances, our body has decided that we don’t need it 

Difficulty breathing – The body is preparing for a threat – We need more oxygen in the blood stream and therefore more air.

Choking – Adrenaline is trying to shut down our digestive system.

Chest tightness – This is similar to difficulty breathing but feels like pressure or pain. You may even think that you are having a heart attack.

Abdominal pain/discomfort /nausea – Adrenaline is causing the digestive upset. We get a churning tummy.

Hot flushes – Bloodflow is being re-directed.

Tense muscles – We are getting ready to fight or run.

Tension Headaches – These are due to changes in blood flow again.Panic Attacks (Or Panic Disorder)

What can be done about Panic Attacks ?

Go to:   Panic Attack Solutions 

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