Experiencing a panic attack can be a frightening experience. Many people often think they’re having a heart attack the first time it happens. A panic attack can be the result of someone suffering from an anxiety or panic disorder, but anyone can get one. Panic attacks involve sudden feelings of terror that strike without warning. They can happen at any time, even when people are sleeping. While they are usually brief they can feel like they last a lifetime.
People who report having a panic attack often experience several of the following symptoms. They might only experience a few, or they might experience all of these symptoms. If someone has more than one panic attack it’s not uncommon to experience different symptoms at different times. Understanding the symptoms can help people identify when they are experiencing a panic attack versus another serious illness like a heart attack.
A racing heart is a common symptom. If you have ever been scared before, you will know the sensation. It feels as if your heart is beating very quickly, almost too quickly.
During a panic attack, people might feel lightheaded, needing to sit down and take deep breaths. During, and after, they often feel weak, faint, and dizzy.
Tingling or Numbness in Fingers/Hands
A tingling or numb sensation in the hands and fingers is commonly reported. This symptom is just a result of the body responding to the fear, drawing the blood into deeper tissue and away from appendages.
Sense of Terror
A sense of terror or impending death and doom is both a symptom and cause of panic attacks. Negative thoughts about death, life, and self can cause people to enter a panic attack but during on these thoughts can spiral to seemingly irrational places like they do with anxiety disorders.
Sweating or Chills
The increased heart rate during a panic attack both increases body temperature while also drawing blood away from certain areas. This can cause people to sweat or to get the chills.
Chest pains are both a symptom of panic attacks and heart attacks, which is why people often confuse one for the other. Looking at additional symptoms is important in determining which it is.
One of the most common symptoms is trouble breathing. People tend to hyperventilate as they start to enter a panic attack, which only brings on more symptoms.
Loss of Control
Panic attacks can make people feel out of control. They come out of nowhere leading people to feel confused and anxious about them, especially when you don’t know what caused it or when it will come again.
Panic attacks can be caused by a number of things. Psychiatrists say that if you have had one panic attack you are at greater risk for having another one. When attacks repeatedly occur a person is considered to have panic disorder. Panic disorder is fairly common in the US, affecting about 6 million adults. Women are twice as likely to develop the condition than men.
Doctors and scientists aren’t sure about the exact cause of panic attacks or panic disorder. It could be biological, in association to major life effects, or lifestyle stress. There could also be a genetic link as panic disorders can run in families.
What To Do
Panic attacks and panic disorders can be managed with professional help. It’s important to seek out a psychiatrist, as people who experience these attacks are more prone to depression, suicide, or substance abuse. Psychotherapy and medication either used in combination or singly, have been successful in treating panic disorder and panic attacks.
If you or someone you know suffers from panic disorder or panic attacks, contact us today to get help.