Your first panic attack can come completely out of the blue and can hit you with such a force that the whole experience is absolutely terrifying. It could even feel as if you are having a heart attack.
What you are experiencing is your body going into a very primal “fight or flight” mode and the physical sensations are the result of adrenaline being pumped through your body.
You are not having a heart attack, you are not going to die and you are not going crazy.
What are the symptoms?
The physical symptoms people may have during a panic attack include:
Shortness of breath
Fast heart rate or palpatations
Pain or discomfort in the chest
Feeling smothered or a choking sensation
Feeling faint, dizzy, unsteady
Tingling or numbness in the extremities
Hot and/or cold flushes
Trembling muscles or shaking
Wanting to go to the toilet
People generally experience about 7 different symptoms during an attack, although not all symptoms are physical.
Some non-physical symptoms are:
A sudden overwhelming feeling of fear, terror or apprehension
Feeling you might die
Afraid that you might lose control completely
A sense of impending doom
Feeling scared that you might go crazy or lose your mind
What can cause an attack?
A panic attack can be caused by high levels of anxiety and stress.
There might have been some big changes going on in your life; moving house, changing jobs or ending a relationship. These big changes can be both positive and negative. The common stressor being that they affect your sense of safety and support, having to renegotiate your place and your standing.
Incidents in childhood can have an impact on whether or not you develop panic attacks. The way you were brought up, how you were taught to see yourself and how to deal with difficult situations all have a part to play. People that didn’t have a great sense of safety and support during their childhood, tend to be more prone to panic attacks.
Once you have suffered a panic attack, the sheer fear of it happening again can set off a new attack at any time. Many people that suffer panic attacks will start to avoid certain areas or situations where they have had an attack in the hopes of preventing a new one. Sadly, this approach is not very effective and the list of places and situations to avoid can grow longer and longer.
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