We’ve all heard the terms “panic attack” or “panic attack.” Most of us, even once in our life, have experienced the symptoms to a lesser or greater degree. But what exactly is a panic attack?

A panic attack is defined as a sudden episode of fear and anxiety accompanied by severe physical reactions. This fear does not arise from any real danger or obvious cause. The person feels that they suddenly lose control of their thoughts and body. He embodies and experiences it as a heart attack or even dying.

A panic attack is not life-threatening

Emotionally, however, it charges the person, burdens him, alters his way of thinking and can affect the quality of life to a decisive extent. The person is overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety and fear, remembering the event, losing control of his thoughts and trying to protect himself from difficult feelings, he is likely to close himself off and then avoid social interactions that could expose him to a new danger.

People who have experienced one or more panic attacks gradually withdraw into safe environments (e.g. withdrawal into the familiar), and avoid any place or habit associated with the experience of a panic attack, overwhelmed by fear of the next one. . The way it manifests varies from person to person. Symptoms peak within minutes and when they subside, they leave the person exhausted. Many people experience a panic attack at least once in their life. But when the person feels trapped between the feeling of fear and repeated experiences of crises, and the symptoms persist for a long time, then it is possible to talk about a Panic Disorder.

DSM-IV Panic Disorder Diagnostic Criteria

According to the DSM-IV a “panic attack” (panic attack) would be considered a distinct period of intense fear or distress in which four (or more) of the following symptoms developed suddenly and peaked within 10 minutes:

  1. palpitations, feeling like your heart is going to break or fast heart rate
  2. sweating
  3. tremors or severe tremors
  4. feeling of suffocation or tightness in the chest
  5. feeling of suffocation
  6. chest pain or discomfort;
  7. nausea or epigastric discomfort
  8. feeling dizzy, unsteady or faint
  9. derealization (feeling unreality) or depersonalization (feeling withdrawn/distanced from self)
  10. fear of losing control or going crazy
  11. fear that he will die
  12. hallucinations (numbness or tingling sensation)
  13. chills or feeling hot

Panic Disorder is a condition that differs from a person’s usual feeling of fear or anxious reactions to exposure to stressors. It appears suddenly and for no apparent, conscious reason. It can occur at any time and moment, for example while driving or sleeping. The person is faced with sudden attacks of fear and intense nervousness, as well as sweating and rapid heart rate. During a panic attack, the person reacts and manages the perceived threat out of proportion to the situation they are faced with in reality, which is usually not threatening. Progressively, the person suffering from panic disorder tends to develop a constant fear that the experience will repeat itself, which gradually affects their daily life in a dysfunctional way.

When should I see a mental health professional?

The causes that cause a panic attack have not been clarified. Some of the factors that influence the individual are heredity, character and environment. Factors that can trigger a panic attack are the presence of other family members with a panic attack, the loss of a loved one and difficulty managing and resolving grief, a sudden change such as divorce or dismissal from work, repressed experiences of abuse, etc. a. In the course of the development of the vicious cycle of a panic attack, the person acquires problems in his daily life. It becomes prone to depression and other anxiety disorders. Other phobias and even suicidal tendencies are likely to be triggered.

As repeated experiences of panic attacks, they are not manageable without therapeutic intervention and can gradually worsen with serious effects on the person’s life. As part of prevention and management, it is important to see a Mental Health specialist and manage with them the dysfunctional emotions that panic attacks cause, and how we can get rid of the unwanted emotions.