Panic attacks used to be a part of my daily life. From about the age of 18 to 25 I suffered from them constantly. What made matter worse for me was I had no idea what they were and what may have caused them. I just assumed I was going mad and coped the best way I could, badly.
This type of anxiety disorder is very common and is a by product of the natural way the body reacts to extreme stress i.e. to prepare to flight or flee.
Just knowing this can be a big help to sufferers, knowing that you’re not going mad but are experiencing a real reaction to stress and that the symptoms are a part of normal physical function.
The Symptoms of Panic
The most common symptoms experienced during an attack are:
- Rapid pulse
- Nausea or diarrhea
- Rapid breathing as if you can’t breathe properly and are suffocating
- Pins and needles, especially in the fingers
- Fear of losing control
- Extreme anxiety
- Ringing in the ears
- Feelings of faintness
Sometimes the sufferer may also get pains in the chest leading them to believe they are having a heart attack. It is important to note that if you do experience any of these symptoms that you are properly diagnosed by a doctor, in case there are underlining health issues.
These attacks cannot harm you. After a short period of time it will burn itself out.
What Causes Panic Attacks?
Good question, and one which has no one single answer. It may be due to a period of stress which has built up over time and has developed into panic. It may be caused by feelings of worthlessness, for instance middle aged women are more prone to these attacks and this may be because they feel they no longer have a role in life once the children have left home etc which can be stressful.
Although anyone can suffer from these attacks, it is more common in women. Some women even find that just before a period they can suffer these symptoms, probably caused by low blood sugars which can trigger feelings of anxiety.
Stop Panic Attacks
If you are diagnosed with these attacks it is important to seek help as soon as possible. The main reason for this is that as I found, if left unchecked they can actually cause an attack in themselves. Just the fear of having another attack can trigger one off. So it is important that help is sought to nip them in the bud.
Some doctors will prescribe medication in the short term to help you cope if the symptoms are extreme, while you receive counselling. Just talking to someone you trust can help you overcome them, this can be a close friend or a professional who is trained to deal with this stress. This worked for me, I found someone who I trusted completely and who helped me to learn to face them and overcome them.
Also learning the correct way to breathe and how to control your thoughts during an attack may also help. They allow you to take back control and the panic attack will subside a lot quicker.
Of course learning and practicing the coping strategies or techniques which suit your personality will also enable you to manage the stress so that panic does not become a part of your problems and take hold.
Claim Back Your Life
Panic attack phobia. When I was about 16 I started to get panic attacks every day, they seemed to have come from nowhere, nothing had triggered them, or at least I wasn’t aware that anything had.
I had had some signs previously that I was an anxious child, often crying at the slightest thing and being very clingy to my parents.
This had seemed to start once I had started junior school, as I do remember being extremely confident as a younger child. So perhaps social pressures had been my trigger or even the pressure from teachers, I can’t be sure.
As I got older I became less and less confident and always felt that I didn’t fit in anywhere as my teens wore on, the anxiety increased and the panic attacks began.
The attacks were terrible and in the end I actually became phobic about the attacks themselves, to the extent that I used to trigger them off myself.
I knew that evening times were the times my anxiety became worse and because of this I used to dread the evenings.
This dread turned to anxiety and yep the next panic attack was triggered. It was a daily occurrence which knighted my life for many years and stopped me enjoying my teen years.
Being so young and feeling very isolated I did not seek help. My parents seemed to treat me like I was mentally ill and I don’t remember them ever really trying to help me, I guess they didn’t understand what was happening and put it down to being a teenager. I don’t blame them for this but I do wish that there had been someone in my life then that could have helped me understand what was happening to me.
It is common for people who suffer anxiety attacks to think that they are going mad and there is no way or out for them.
I know I did, I assumed that I would suffer these terrible frightening attacks for the rest of my life and that I would never be happy, I even turned to alcohol to try and calm me down.
Twenty five years on and now a trained stress advisor I look back at those times with sadness. I lost so much of my youth to anxiety and only wish that there had been more help available then. Luckily anyone suffering today has so much more support available, from the internet, social support groups and from stress and health advisors who are far more able to provide effective help.
Learning to cope with stress and find relaxation is far easier to do effectively with the amount of information freely available to everyone.
If you are suffering panic and anxiety attacks, I urge you not to let them take over your life and waste so many happy times. I eventually grew out of my attacks as I moved into adulthood and found a very supportive partner, but I lost many years to anxiety. Don’t be like me, seek help now.