Understanding Panic Attacks

This article explores anxiety and panic attacks, delving into their causes, how to seek treatment and support, and offering advice for those affected and their loved ones.

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What is a panic attack?

Panic attacks are intense, exaggerated responses to stress or danger. They manifest as a sudden surge of overwhelming fear and discomfort.

How to recognise a panic attack

The physical signs of a panic attack can escalate rapidly, including:

  • A rapid heartbeat
  • Feelings of faintness or dizziness
  • Extreme temperature changes
  • Sweating, trembling, or shaking
  • Nausea
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath or choking sensations
  • Weak, jelly-like legs
  • A disconnection from reality or oneself

These attacks often bring a fear of losing control, fainting, having a heart attack, or even dying.

When do panic attacks happen?

Panic attacks can strike without warning. Their frequency and triggers vary widely among individuals. Some may experience them sporadically, while others might have multiple attacks in a short period.

Stressful situations or particular environments often trigger these episodes. Typically, a panic attack peaks within 10 minutes, but its effects can linger.

Managing panic attacks

During the Attack

  • Breathing Techniques: Focus on slow, deep breaths.
  • Physical Grounding: Stamping on the spot can regulate breathing.
  • Sensory Focus: Engage your senses, like tasting mint or holding something soft.
  • Grounding Techniques: These help regain control, especially useful if you feel disconnected.

Post-Attack Care

  • Self-Care: Rest and meet your body’s needs, like quiet time or hydration.
  • Communication: Inform someone you trust about the attack and how they can support you in future incidents.

What is panic disorder?

If panic attacks occur frequently and unpredictably without specific triggers, it may be diagnosed as panic disorder. It’s not uncommon for panic disorder to coexist with phobias. Sensitivity to sensory experiences might be linked to panic disorder, though research in this area is ongoing.

Panic disorder is when someone often has panic attacks suddenly and without warning. These panic attacks are times when they feel really scared and uncomfortable all of a sudden, and this feeling gets very strong within a few minutes.

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