Panic Attacks

What is a panic attack?

A sudden rush of physical and emotional symptoms that can occur apparently without warning

Physical symptoms include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Increased sweating
  • Clammy hands
  • Light-headedness, dizziness, faintness
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Nausea

Psychological symptoms include:

  • An impulse to run away
  • Fear of dying, going crazy, going out of control
  • Feeling of unreality

What causes it?

Physiologically the body is reacting to a perceived threat – a similar reaction to the need to escape from a physical danger eg a fire or an accident. The body produces large quantities of a hormone – adrenalin which causes increased heart rate, breathing, muscle tension. With panic attacks normally there is no apparent or immediate danger and they frequently happen in the most ordinary settings, on a train, in a shop, lecture etc. The lack of obvious explanation can make them more frightening. Sometimes they occur in settings that are more obviously stressful eg in an exam, in a crowd but soon the attack may become more frightening than the situation itself.

Your panic attacks are likely to make you feel out of control and dependent; the victim of your bodily reactions and outside circumstances. The first step along the road to recovery is recognising that you have the power to control your symptoms.  If you would like to learn ways of managing your panic please contact us.

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