Imagine standing in a roomful of people. You look around at everyone’s faces and start to feel a slight chill come over your body. Next, you begin quivering all over…slightly, but uncontrollably and after that begins, you feel a drip of sweat trickle from your brow and beads of perspiration begin forming all over your body. Next comes your breathing, or lack thereof as it feels as if your throat is closing, making it difficult to fill your lungs with much needed air.
You get dizzy and are sure you are going to pass out…this last for about 20 minutes and for no reason, as quickly as it started, the symptoms begin to disappear. It’s no fun at all and for thousands and thousands of people all over the world, this scenario is all too common. It describes what is known as a panic attack.
A panic attack is a physiological reaction that normally occurs because of some specific stimuli. It could be that you are afraid of crowded places, public speaking, spiders, or anything at for that matter. It is a state of uncontrollable fear and anxiety and can even overtake someone when there is no specific stimuli to react to…seemingly from nowhere. Many of us have experienced these before and it often feels as if we are dying or something is terribly medically wrong. In fact, a panic attack is a protective system for the body.
You see, when the body sense danger and that it may have to be involved in intense activity, it releases adrenaline into the blood stream. Adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) is the chemical that is actually responsible for most of the symptoms associated with a panic attack. The body is put into what is known as the FIGHT or FLIGHT response and begins to become more efficient so that it can handle whatever is coming its way. In the case of a panic attack, often NOTHING is happening to the body so it merely experiences all these symptoms as it is in an inactive state.
Think of someone who drinks a few cups of coffee before going on a job. The caffeine will give them increased energy they will use during the jog, but if they instead tried to take a nap after drinking the coffee, they would become restless, jittery, etc. because the energy is not being used for physical activity. Adrenaline is like…well, coffee on steroids!
Those that experience frequent panic attacks may have what is known as panic disorder and should certainly seek treatment.
While a panic attack itself may not be harmful, it has been shown that menopausal women with panic disorder have a much higher risk of experiencing a heart attack within the next few years. Treatment for panic attacks and panic disorder can include cognitive behavior therapy, a variety of medications, as well as some older less trusted methods such as breathing into a paper bag.
If you feel that you are suffering from panic attacks, it is best to seek the advice of a qualified medical professional to diagnose your condition. While it may be harmless and something you can handle on your own, a more serious condition may be the cause and it is wise to find out as soon as you can so your condition does not worsen.