Panic Attacks


The Real Nature of Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder

Panic attacks involve the experience of sudden, frightening, unpredictable, inexplicable and uncontrollable physical changes within your body. They are almost always accompanied by upsurges in anxiety. Attacks normally come on without warning and involve one or more of the following physical changes:

  • racing or pounding heart (palpitations)
  • irregular heartbeats (arrthymia)
  • dizziness and light-headedness
  • disorientation and difficulty thinking clearly
  • feelings of unreality
  • tightness or pressure in the chest
  • difficulty breathing
  • numbness or tingling sensations (particularly in face, hands & feet)
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating and shaking
  • hot or cold flushes
  • rising agitation
  • inability to concentrate or think clearly
  • weakness (jelly like) in the legs
  • butterflies in the stomach
  • nausea
  • apprehension and fear

These feelings can be so frightening they may have caused you to think that you may:

  • faint
  • collapse or make a fool of yourself
  • lose control or go crazy
  • have a heart attack
  • die
  • wet or soil yourself
  • vomit or be sick
  • have a stroke
  • harm yourself or others
  • or that something awful was going to happen to you.

Panic disorder is the name given to the feelings and sensations that were experienced during the attacks.

As with most sufferers, you probably fear that the next attack will not only be as bad as your worst attack, but may even be worse, and lead to the very things you fear, such as having a heart attack and dying.

You should be reassured that:

  1. Later attacks are almost never as severe as the first attacks.
  2. The catastrophes that you fear will almost certainly never happen:
    • Angina-like feelings in the chest do not mean that you are having a heart attack
    • No one has ever died from a panic attack
    • Fainting or collapsing is extremely rare even in first attacks, and if it has not happened to you, it almost certainly never will
    • Even though you may feel embarrassed and think you are drawing attention to yourself, those around you are extremely unlikely to notice how you feel
    • It may feel that you are going to lose control but this does not happen.
    • You are not going crazy if you have these feelings. No one can lock you away for panic disorder as it is not a form of madness.

If you wish to recover from panic attacks, Lorraine can help.