The common thread between most anxiety disorders is the panic attack. However, when panic attacks are experienced out of the blue without an apparent trigger, this is classified as panic disorder.
People with panic disorder have sudden and repeated attacks of fear that last for several minutes. Their mind is having a misinterpretation of bodily/mental experience that requires immediate intervention. These are called panic attacks. Panic attacks are characterized by a fear of disaster or of losing control even when there is no real danger. A person may also have a strong physical reaction during a panic attack. It may feel like having a heart attack. Panic attacks can occur at any time, and many people with panic disorder worry about and dread the possibility of having another attack.
Symptoms can include: Pounding heart, Sweaty ,Weak, Faint, chest pains, Nausea, Trembling, Shortness of breath, Numbness, A sense of unreality and loss of control, A fear of dying and A fear of going crazy.
People that suffer from panic disorder generally exhibit hyper vigilance with regards to their symptoms, they put into place “avoidance behaviour” such as avoiding certain situations that cause fear or panic. Avoidance behaviours are non-productive in alleviating the actual problem in the long run and may, in fact, serve to reinforce underlying fears.
Treating panic attacks can be varied but psycho education is one way that appears to help start to relieve some of the symptoms so that the client can start to explore more deeply the reasons behind their panic attacks. Psycho education means to help the client understand what is happening to their body during a panic attack, someone may have a piece of paper acquired from their GP entitled “Fight or Flight response” but do not understand what it all means.
Understanding your panic attack
The fight-or-flight response (FF) is an acute stress response. The aim of FF is quite simple, to keep us safe. It is a vital part of our most basic survival mechanisms. The FF response prepares us for action, to either fight when faced with a sudden danger; or to run away when fighting isn’t an option.
So what happens during a panic attack ? Well, several things, as your body alters its priorities from long term survival to emergency short term survival. In a response to the release of hormones such as adrenaline, your blood pressure increases and breathing speeds up preparing you for muscular effort. Your legs may shake as they are prepared for running; your hands may shake as the large muscles of your arms are prepared to fight. Your palms and feet may become sweaty to give you better grip. Blood is shunted away from the stomach to the major muscle groups where it will be used during an emergency. This is why people who experience regular stress often have digestive problems: blood is constantly being pumped to areas other than the stomach.
When having a panic attack it is worth remembering that it is your body trying to help you, it’s doing what it is programmed to do, only, your body is working to hard to keep you safe at times when there is no danger.
So maybe next time when you start to having feelings of a panic attack maybe try just looking around you and if there is no danger just say to your body “Thank you for doing your job but you can stand down now as there is no danger”.
This may seem a very simple way of helping reduce your anxiety but sometimes it’s the simple things that can make the biggest.