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Panic Attacks

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Experiencing a panic attack is not simply about experiencing a moment of severe fright or nerves. They run much deeper than that. Read on.

Contrary to popular belief, experiencing a panic attack is not simply about experiencing a moment of severe fright or nerves when you are about to make that speech in front of five hundred people or the morning of that important meeting or exam you have been preparing for. Panic attacks run much deeper than that.

Whenever Seema would get a panic attack, her heart would start beating wildly and she was certain she would get a heart attack. The panic attack would then feed on this fear, causing it to increase in intensity. It's a vicious circle. Before long, Seema started fearing her episodes of panic attacks so intensely, that this very fear would eventually trigger another attack. She gradually stopped going out of the house alone because she was so afraid of experiencing a panic attack in public, and there would be no one around to help her. This disorder was gradually taking over her life.

What causes these attacks?

The 'trigger' for such attacks remains a mystery. While it is true that moments of intense stress can trigger a panic attack, often sufferers experience an attack even when they are at home, calmly watching a movie or reading a book. Thus no specific cause for panic attacks can be pinpointed.

Some symptoms of panic attacks include:

  • Out of body feeling
  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pains
  • Palpitations and racing heart
  • Feeling of impending doom or death
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Shaking and shivering
  • Sweating
  • Tingling or numb feelings in the hands
  • Losing bowel control

Persons suffering from panic attacks may experience just a couple of these symptoms. Those who experience more than 4 of these symptoms may be suffering from a panic disorder. Similarly, if these attacks are frequent, occur at least once a week, and the fear of experiencing another attack eventually does lead to one, the person is suffering from a panic disorder.

If you are suffering from a panic attack, it is important for you to realize that nothing is really going to happen to you. It is only your nerves acting up. You are not going to get a heart attack no matter how fast you believe your heart is beating, and you are NOT going to die. No matter how terrible you feel at the moment, the feeling is certainly going to pass. Keep repeating this to yourself during your attack, and the feeling will gradually pass.

During a panic attack, a person may also experience an extreme fear of losing control over herself or of going crazy. Needless to say, you are NOT losing your mind. If you were indeed going insane, you would not know it. A person's slip into insanity is completely an unconscious act so the very fact that you believe you may be turning insane is proof that you are not!

Living with a panic disorder is extremely difficult, as sufferers live in constant fear of experiencing the next attack and they may become extremely fearful of making even little trips outside the house. If you know someone who suffers from such attacks, don't just laugh it off. Encourage the person to visit a doctor. It may take just around 6 to 8 months to cure such disorders. Often, these get cured much faster, and at times, treatment for more severe cases may last a lifetime. However, while the patient may be required to take medication for a lifetime, the disorder is controlled and the sufferer can lead a normal life. At times, medication is not even required, and a little counseling and psychotherapy can work wonders.

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