What Exactly is a Panic Attack?

Panic attacks are widely misunderstood, but simply understanding what they are can play a big role in stopping the panic episode. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, some symptoms of panic attacks include:

  • Accelerated heart rate

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Chest pain or discomfort

  • Sweating, chills, or heat sensations

  • Shaking

  • Shortness of breath

  • Feelings of choking

  • Nausea

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

  • Numbness or tingling sensations

  • Feeling disconnected from self or surroundings

  • Fear of losing control

  • Fear of dying

Photo credit

Many of these symptoms resemble those of a heart attack, breathing disorder, or other illnesses. Because of this, many people experiencing a panic attack will go to the hospital, especially if it’s their first one. Being able to identify a panic attack and knowing that it won’t kill you can help ease the panic.

Panic attacks are not an overreaction to stress or a sign of mental weakness. They can occur suddenly and unexpectedly in both a calm or anxious state. Panic attacks are also not the same thing as anxiety. There are many types of anxiety disorders, and anxiety builds over a period of time, is enduring, and is correlated with excessive worry. Panic attacks are sudden and extreme. They sometimes occur in people with mental health disorders, but it’s also possible to experience a panic attack with no disorder. More information on the differences between anxiety and panic attacks can be found here.

Photo credit

If you experience panic attacks, you should mention it to your doctor. Whether you have them on occasion, multiple times a day, or anywhere in between, it’s good to learn more about it and know what your treatment options are. Some people learn coping skills, some go to therapy, and some take medication. Many people do a combination of those, but whatever path you take, know that panic attacks are a real and highly treatable disorder.

If you or a loved one is in need of support, there are many resources available. Call 240-485-1001 for information on anxiety and depression from the ADAA. Call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Want to keep up with HCBU? Make sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, check out our Pinterest board, and read our latest Tweets!