What are Panic Attacks?
The first thing you need to understand, if you are currently experiencing panic attacks, is that you are NOT in any physical danger. No-one has ever come to any harm from the physical sensations of a panic attack.
What are panic attacks? Simply put, a panic attack is an intense reaction to fear.
Panic attacks can be described as a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Panic attacks are the manifestation of high anxiety, they are not a separate condition. During a panic attack your heart may pound and it may feel like you can’t breathe. It can feel like you are choking and you may even feel like you’re going to die or that you are going crazy. Panic attacks usually occur out of the blue and without any warning and there may seem to be no clear reason for the panic attack. They can even occur when you’re relaxed or asleep.
Panic attack symptoms develop abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. Most panic attacks end within 20 to 30 minutes, and they rarely last more than an hour.
Here are the most common signs and symptoms that people experience during panic attacks:
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Heart palpitations or a racing heart
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Trembling or shaking
- Choking feeling (unable to swallow easily)
- Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Hot or cold flushes
Not everyone will experience all the panic attack symptoms above and not everyone will experience them in the same way but one thing that is certain is you will know for sure if you have ever had a panic attack. It can be a terrifying experience even if you understand what is happening to you.
For some a panic attack can be a one-time occurrence, but for most people the initial panic attack is the first of many. Recurrent panic attacks are often triggered by a specific situation, such as crossing a bridge or speaking in public, especially if that situation has caused a panic attack before. But it is most likely that your panic attacks are being triggered by a sub-conscious thought.
There are many coping strategies you can use to try to deal with the panic attack symptoms. Lots of ‘well-meaning’ individuals will tell you to try things like:
- Use deep breathing
- Recognise that you’re having a panic attack
- Close your eyes
- Calm yourself down
- Practice mindfulness
- Find a focus object
- Use muscle relaxation techniques
- Picture your happy place
- Take medication*
If you are currently experiencing panic attacks, and have tried any of these techniques during a full blown panic attack, you already know that they are useless. Some techniques, like diaphragm breathing, can help to stop a panic attack before it starts BUT these coping techniques cannot and will not stop the re-occurrence of the panic attacks.
You see the problem is all the while you think you need the help of some ‘technique’ during a panic attack you are subconsciously telling yourself that the panic attack is so dangerous that you have to do something to try and prevent it. This is one of anxiety’s little paradoxes and actually makes the panic attack worse.
If you suffer from frequent panic attacks you are actually suffering from a behavioural condition, not a medical one.
A panic attack is a reaction to fear, either conscious or sub-conscious and one of the most common catalysts of panic attacks is anticipatory anxiety. This can include worrying about your health or becoming mentally anxious over a past event, and your body responds as if it will happen again right away. This is because your emotional brain cannot tell the difference between a real threat and a perceived threat.
What is important to understand though is that it doesn’t matter what causes the initial fear, what matters is you understand that it is the fear that causes the panic (without fear a panic attack simply cannot happen). Then the sensations of the panic reinforce your initial fear and you are now in the circle of panic, looping through the same cycle of fear over and over which becomes self perpetuating.
If you are currently experiencing panic attacks, or even if you have them infrequently, and would like to stop your panic attacks for good, you can visit the Stop Panic page in our Members Section and learn the definitive method for stopping panic attacks for good.
You will learn how to break the cycle of fear and stop your panic attacks permanently. When that happens you are then able to address the root cause of the initial fear response. Generalised Anxiety Disorder is the most common form of anxiety disorder and without an underlying anxiety disorder, panic attacks cannot exist.
To learn the definitive method for completely removing unwanted anxiety and panic attacks get The Panic Shutdown Method now!
* At Panic Shutdown we do not advocate taking medication for any anxiety condition (including panic attacks). Our program shows you how to remove your unwanted anxiety and panic attacks quickly and naturally.