Panic attacks are extremely frightening.
They can seem to come out of the blue, strike at random, make people feel powerless, out of control, and as if they are about to become unconscious, die or even go mad.
Many people experience this problem, but many also learn to cope and, eventually, to overcome it successfully.
A panic attack is a kind of exaggerated version of the body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement.
When faced with a situation seen as potentially threatening, the body automatically gears itself up for danger, by producing quantities of Adrenalin for ‘fight or flight’. (Technically this is now recognised as “Freeze” “Flight” or “Fight”)
This would have prepared our ancestors to fight or run away from danger, but it’s much less appropriate to the stresses we encounter today.
However, our body can still respond in this way to both real and imagined danger.
Adrenalin has the following effects on your body:-
▪ muscles tense up
▪ breathing becomes faster to take in more oxygen, which muscles need to help them transform sugar into energy
▪ the heart pumps harder to get blood to where it’s needed
▪ blood is diverted to the muscles, away from areas that don’t need it, so you become pale
▪ digestion slows down and salivary glands dry up, causing a dry mouth
▪ your senses become more alert; the slightest sound or touch provokes a reaction
▪ sweating increases.
These reactions occur in a matter of seconds, and can happen in moments of pleasurable excitement, as well as in fear-provoking and threatening situations.
When adrenalin floods your body, it can cause a number of different physical and emotional sensations that may affect you during a panic attack.
These may include:
▪ very rapid breathing or feeling unable to breathe
▪ very rapid heartbeat
▪ pains in your chest
▪ feeling faint or dizzy
▪ ringing in your ears
▪ tingling or numbness in your hands and feet
▪ hot or cold flushes
▪ feeling nauseous
▪ wanting to go to the toilet
▪ feelings of absolute terror
▪ feelings of unreality
Panic attacks come on very quickly, symptoms usually peaking within 10 minutes.
Most panic attacks last for between five and 20 minutes.
Some people report attacks lasting for up to an hour, but they are likely to be experiencing one attack after another, or a high level of anxiety after the initial attack.
You may have one or two panic attacks and never experience another.
Or you may have attacks once a month or several times each week.
Panic attacks can come in the night when you are asleep.
These night-time attacks occur as your body is on ‘high alert’ (Hypervigilant) and can detect small, normal changes in your body which it then takes as a sign of danger. (The fact that you can be monitoring your bodily sensations while asleep is perfectly normal and automatic – just think about the times you have woken up and needed to go to the toilet.)
Night-time attack may be particularly frightening, as you may feel confused and helpless to do anything to spot it coming.
This is one of the most distressing aspects of suffering from panic attacks – they may seem completely unpredictable, and therefore uncontrollable.
During an attack, you may fear that the world is going to come to an end, or that you are about to die or go mad.
The most important thing to remember is that, however dreadful you may feel during an attack, this is not going to happen.
The bodily effects of panic attacks, such as breathlessness, are just part of the panic.
It is very important that you rule out any physiological reason for your panic attacks, and we strongly advise that you consult your GP before consulting us so that you can be sure that the problem is Psychological.
What sort of things could make me suffer from Panic Attacks?
There are a number of physical causes that could be causing or contributing to your panic attacks:
▪ Unstable blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) can be the result of poor eating habits, dieting and fasting or some diabetic conditions
▪ Over-breathing (hyperventilation) happens when you are under stress, though you may not be aware of it. Your breathing becomes more rapid, in order to meet the body’s demand for more oxygen for the muscles. As a result, you breathe out more carbon-dioxide than normal, which can bring on panic symptoms.
▪ Digestive problems, particularly food allergies, may be to blame.
▪ Excessive Caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, and certain street drugs (such as LSD, marijuana and cocaine) can bring on a panic reaction.
▪ Withdrawing from any drug that has a sedative effect, such as nicotine, alcohol and tranquillisers, can do the same.
▪ Some prescription medication, including some amphetamines, steroids, anti-asthma drugs, and even nasal decongestants have been reported to increase anxiety.
Being in chronic pain can be another cause of panic attacks, as can simple jet lag.
Contact JTR Hypnotherapy
If you’d like to arrange for an initial consultation at my clinic, or if you have any queries that you’d like me to answer, then you can e-mail me, or if you’d prefer, you can fill out my online-enquiry form.