What are panic attacks?

About 2% of people worldwide are constantly experiencing various symptoms of panic attacks. Women, due to their biological and psychological features, have a greater risk of experiencing a panic attack – about three times more often than men.

What are panic attacks? A panic attack can strike anywhere, anytime. But more often the panic attacks occur in the crowded places – in hypermarkets, on the street, in cafes, at the railway station. It may start indoors – in the elevator, bus, plane or waiting room.

Signs of a panic attack:

  • Increase in anxiety and sudden acute discomfort that turns into fear, it may take several minutes;
  • Increased heart rate, tremor and weakness, sweating, dry mouth;
  • Chest pain, feeling of suffocation – shortness of breath;
  • Nausea, heaviness or burning sensation in the stomach;
  • Dizziness, depersonalization – feeling of being “out of the body”, “the ground crumbles under the feet”, “blurred vision”;
  • Intense fear of losing control, falling unconscious, going crazy etc.

What are panic attacks? Experiencing the panic attack, a person may feel that this is “his last minutes of life,” while suffering from the repetitive intrusive thoughts like:

  • “I’m going crazy”
  • “I’m terrified, and everyone will think I’m crazy”
  • “Now I’ll scream, flack out, and everyone will laugh at me”
  • “I think I’m dying – I have a heart attack”
  • “I’m suffocating.”

A panic disorder, which refers to a number of anxiety disorders, by itself, is not dangerous to life and health. So one should not perceive panic attacks like a mental illness or madness. A panic attack will never lead to death or serious injury, but the constant repetition of these attacks may suggest a development of the panic neurosis, which can ruin a whole life. People with panic disorder often prefer to stay at home, avoid crowded areas, like railway stations and airports. They quit flying on airplanes, or going on ships, or even using the elevator. All the places, where the panic can strike – are passed by. Life becomes a routine, and the anxiety domesticates – as the panic attacks happen less often at home. At the background of the panic neurosis, different kinds of phobias may develop, – like the claustrophobia, agoraphobia, up to the fear of insects or fear of the doctors.

Development of the panic neurosis may be caused by a wide variety of things:

  • Stress. Chronic and exhausting stress at home and/or at work. Complicated relationships, the constant need to respond to problems and to make decisions, suppressed individuality. The risk of suffering a panic attack increases in people with the emotional hypersensitivity and susceptibility.
  • Lifestyle. Unbalanced, irregular meals and liberate use of various stimulants like coffee, alcohol or even drugs abuse, chronic lack of sleep and low physical inactivity may serve as a fertile ground for the development of panic neurosis.
  • Lack of the mental hygiene. Repressed feelings and fears, problems put away “for later”. Unresolved questions and general dissatisfaction with oneself provoke the anxiety, emerging into the area of consciousness at the most inopportune moment.

Victims of panic attacks tend to believe, that their problems are just a shameful weakness or the manifestation of madness, seeking help only when neurosis becomes chronic. One can live with the panic neurosis for many years, whilst the panic attacks become more frequent, harming nervous system and deteriorating the quality of life.

A panic neurosis is treatable. But the treatment of the chronic panic neurosis may take several years. With a panic attack one can cope using the self-hypnosis, breathing exercises and meditation. It is better to get rid of your panic attacks before it becomes a real problem.