19 Jan

Managing Anxiety: What is a Panic Attack? And How Can You Overcome It?

A panic attack is a scary experience that can leave you feeling powerless.

However, there are ways that you can overcome a panic attack so that it does not negatively affect your life.

Start with educating yourself..

What is a Panic Attack?

If you could sum it up in one word what a panic attack is, it would be “fear.” Fear is the basis of a panic attack because fear is what drives the physical and psychological symptoms associated with panic attacks.

It is a fear so intense that it overrides other areas of your brain that control reason. That is why in the moment when you are experiencing a panic attack you could be completely safe, yet still be experiencing great fear.

What Causes Panic Attacks?

The exact causes of panic attacks are not clearly known. HOwever, one of the causes of panic attacks involves stress. This stress could be imposed by yourself or arise from other areas of your life.

For instance, you may experience a panic attack if you are constantly pushing yourself to perform at a high level (such as meeting constant deadlines) and get overworked. Another reason you may experience panic attacks is from unresolved trauma, such as:

  • Witnessing or being part of a serious accident
  • Experiencing a loss, such as a death or losing a job
  • Going through a serious illness
  • For no clear reason at all

Other factors include genetics and whether you are susceptible to negative thinking or have poor stress management skills.

What Are the Symptoms of a Panic Attack?

  • A great intense and paralyzing fear
  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pounding Heart
  • Fear of Dying
  • Fear of Losing Control or "Going Crazy"
  • Feelings of Choking
  • Shortness of Breath

One symptom that people report when having a panic attack is a sense of detachment. That is, they feel as if they are outside of their own body. Instead of feeling like they are experiencing the attack, they feel like they are observing from afar. Of course, this can be greatly disturbing.

How Can Panic Attacks be Treated?

First, since a panic attack can resemble more serious medical conditions like a heart attack, we recommend that you visit your Medical Doctor. They can rule out more serious medical conditions by providing a complete physical exam. Second, your doctor may refer you to a licensed therapist or psychologist. Here you will learn to relax your mind, identify thoughts and events that trigger panic. They will provide you with healthy coping skills like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness. Third, if you still are unable to get relief, you may be referred to a third specialist, namely a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication to reduce your symptoms.