Sometimes people can suffer from sufficiently high levels of stress that they end of up with a panic attack. A panic attack is a terrible feeling of fear that suddenly overwhelms you, often coming out of the blue and for no apparent reason.
While a panic attack is not dangerous to your health, it can be very frightening for the person having it and even to those around.
Suffering from a panic attack makes you feel you have no control so that your greatest fear then becomes the thought of having a further panic attack - and perhaps in a public place. Although a panic attack can last for just minutes, repeated attacks can continue to recur for several hours at a time.
So what happens in a panic attack and what are the signs and symptoms?
- Shaking or trembling all over
- A feeling that the heart is pounding or racing
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- A choking feeling
- Dizziness or weakness
- An almost “out of the body” feeling
- Tingling or numbness in the limbs in the form of pins and needles
- Hot flashes or sudden chills
- An almost paralyzing terror
In a panic attack, you are not going to suffer from all of these symptoms at the same time but the presence of at least four is a good indication that a panic attack is taking place. In addition, the sufferer could experience a fear of losing control, of going crazy or of even dying during such an attack.
All of these experiences just help to aggravate the situation
Once someone has had several panic attacks, the alarm felt can become so intense that they can go on to suffer a fear of the outdoors or agoraphobia and become confined to staying at home. They can become a recluse.
What to do if you or someone close to you is suffering from panic attacks
If panic attacks have become a problem, it is important to see a doctor to get a proper diagnosis along with advice and guidance on a treatment plan. An evaluation may be needed to see why these panic attacks are occurring - they could be caused by another medical problem. Often a simple treatment will help which can take the form of counselling or medication while relaxation techniques or support groups are another form of remedying the situation. Be aware that this condition is frequently wrongly diagnosed as a thyroid problem, hypoglycemeia or a heart valve problem by the medical fraternity.
Possible causes of panic attacks
- Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from these attacks and there may be a genetic link or a biological malfunction.
- Extreme and stressful events can of course trigger panic attacks.
- Other causes can be the use of caffeine, cold and flu medications, certain anti-malarial drugs, appetite suppressants, local anesthetics and even excessive exercise.
- Of course just the thought of having a panic attack can trigger an actual panic attack.
Paper bag emergency treatment
This is not a old wive's tale but a genuine and effective short term solution for dealing with a panic attack. Getting someone to breathe in and breathe out from a paper bag (placed over their mouth) balances the ratio of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood and will work.
If you ever suffer from such a panic attack, you will certainly not be unique as roughly three out of every one hundred people will do so at some stage in their life – it does not matter what age, race or to which economic group you belong.
A panic attack will most commonly affect those between twenty and forty years of age.