How To Recognise A Panic Attack
Is This A Panic Attack?
Maybe you’ve experienced something like this before: One day, out of nowhere, you suddenly become short of breath. Your heart is racing and you feel dizzy and lightheaded. You’re convinced that you’re dying, that this is the sign of some serious ailment. But if you go to the doctor -or even the ER – it turns out that nothing is physically wrong with you.
This is what happens to many people when they suffer a panic attack.
Panic attacks are a sudden feeling of extreme anxiety that can occur even if you’re not feeling particularly stressed or anxious about anything at the time. They often stem from unresolved problems that are causing you anxiety, like suppressed issues or major life changes. There may be a genetic element behind them, as well.
Panic attacks are unpleasant, to put it mildly, but if you’re the type that likes to find the silver lining, at least they generally only last around 10-30 minutes. Although the symptoms I described at the beginning of this post are quite common, they can differ greatly from person to person. Here is a list of symptoms you may experience when having a panic attack. You may recognise several of them, or even only one or two:
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations (or the sensation of palpitations) or rapid heartbeat
- Shaking or trembling
- Hot or cold flashes
- Upset stomach
- Ringing ears
- Numb or tingling limbs or extremities
- Feeling lightheaded or faint
- Feeling detached from reality
- Feeling like you’re dying
- Feeling like you’re losing control or going mad
Many of these symptoms could easily be included in a list of serious illnesses. Tricky, isn’t it? This article includes a short, helpful checklist for determining if you suffered a panic attack or something else. Among the things to check for:
- You continue not feeling well, even after the panic attack has subsided.
- You’re experiencing chest pains or an elevated or irregular heart rate after the attack
When you’re having a panic attack, recognising it for what it is may bring some comfort. You can also use techniques like focussing on slowing your breathing, or closely observing your surroundings, to help bring you out of it. There are many other strategies you can find by searching online, as well.
If you’re experiencing recurring panic attacks, this is known as panic disorder. In addition to having to suffer the attacks, people with panic disorder often feel at the mercy of their unpredictability. They may even close themselves off from the world whenever possible (turning down a day out with friends, refusing to go on holiday….), so that they don’t risk having a panic attack in public.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. According to the mental health organization BeyondBlue, an estimated 5% of Australians will suffer from panic disorder at some point in their lives.
If your panic attacks are recurring, you probably already know that over time they can intensify and even morph into other areas of your life, so some support in ' kicking them to the curb' can be useful. This can be done with therapeutic mind techniques, including hypnotherapy. I’ve seen amazing progress in clients who’ve experienced panic attacks. They’re now able to live their lives without fear of another one.
If you think about it, panic attacks are your unconscious’s way of sending you an urgent message. Perhaps that’s another positive side to them: horrible as they are, they can be a strong motivator to fix damage and make positive transformations in your life.