Articles: When Panic Attacks

As I explained in my, “Introduction to Anxiety” it’s a general condition and can precede a panic attack. However, the two are different. Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • sweating
  • trembling
  • pounding heart and/or accelerated heart rate
  • dizziness, light-headedness
  • shortness of breath and/or chest pain
  • feelings of choking
  • nausea and/or abdominal pain
  • chills or heat sensations
  • numbness/ tingling
  • Fear of dying

The fear of dying is hard to describe. In my experience, it’s more of a feeling that you ARE dying as opposed to merely dread; a sense of impending or immanent doom, as if the process has suddenly begun. This is largely misunderstood, perhaps as much as the distinction from anxiety itself but like anxiety, logic/ reason cannot quell the overwhelming sensations that involuntarily occur. Personally, I’ve had more incidences of panic attacks during seemingly ordinary activities than I have from anxiety-inducing circumstances. For instance, I went to a friend’s house where a few people had gathered to make chocolate chip cookies. What could be more calming and fun, right? I never expected to abruptly feel so sick that I wanted to scream, cry, hide, run, curl up in a ball, dash out the door and hide under the table all at the same time.

That’s not to say panic attacks aren’t related to stress or apprehension. The first time I experienced the sheer terror of a full-blown five-alarm no-holds-barred full-on assault of my body’s functions and senses I was fortunate to have someone nearby, whose daughter had frequent panic attacks. She struggled to keep my focus as she talked me through it but definitely saved me from doing anything irrational in response. Now, I’m able to ride out the storm even when I’m alone.

In preparation for this blog post, the sources I consulted enlightened me further. It’s concerning to realize how little I know about my own body! According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a panic attack can be limited to as few as four symptoms. For example, the combination of a stomach ache, increased heart rate, overheating and intense sweating prior to giving a presentation may seem like nothing more than pre-public speaking jitters. For most of my life, that’s what I assumed when I was more than likely having a panic attack. As look back, I wonder how many times I attributed my symptoms to other things. It’s also sobering to wonder how many other people aren’t getting the help they need because they’re unaware of what’s really going on in their body. As I explore anxiety, panic attacks, brain chemistry and related issues in further posts, the pieces of seemingly unrelated topics will begin to fit together.

Resources for further study range from medical/ pharmaceutical:

National Institute of Mental Health


…to a handy “First Aid” guide with management tips:

Overcoming Depression


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