Keep Calm, You're Not the Only One: Experiencing panic attacks
Keeping calm during a panic attack sounds like an oxymoron, but what a relief to know you’re not alone. Roughly six million Americans experience a panic attack or panic disorder in a given year. Panic attacks have commonly been misunderstood as brief moments of internse panic that can be overcome by simply taking deep breaths and thinking about something positive to calm down. That simply is not the case.
Panic attacks are complex, involving multiple parts of the brain as well as other parts of the body. The cause of panic attacks is still being explored as there are no clear explanations to why some people experience them, while others do not. It has been found that panic attacks are far more common in women than men; nearly double the number.
When Anxiety Turns to Panic
Panic, similar to anxiety, is driven by a sense of fear or worry. Panic attacks can be debilitating and scary to experience as they occur unexpectedly with the onset of sudden, overwhelming fear and/or panic. Often times panic attacks last between 10 to 30 minutes. What’s more, panic attacks don’t necessarily occur in stressful or dangerous situations. They can occur in safe situations where there is no real danger; even while feeling fully relaxed or sleeping.
The symptoms of panic attacks can be wide-ranging and varying in severity, some common signs and symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Racing heart and/or chest pain
- Shaking or trembling
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed or faint
- Hot or cold flashes
- Feeling detached from your surroundings
- Numbness or tingling sensations
Could It Be More?
While panic attacks on their own can be scary, some individuals may be experiencing panic disorder or other associated conditions. If you or a loved one has experienced one or two panic attacks, there is little cause for concern. For some, panic attacks can develop into panic disorder, a condition that causes frequent or routine panic attacks, which can lead to changes in behavior and lifestyle, as well as anticipatory anxiety and phobic avoidance.
Additionally, some people experience agoraphobia, a condition that develops as a result of persistent panic attacks or panic disorder. With agoraphobia, an individual may worry about being stuck in a public place and experiencing a panic attack causing feelings of embarrassment or shame.
It Might be Time to get Help
When it comes to panic attacks, remember these three things:
- Don’t assume or downplay what they’re experiencing
- Realize that it’s out of their control
- Ask them what they need you to do
One of the most important things you can do if you experience panic attacks is to find the right physician, gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/physician.