panic attack can be a terrifying experience

Panic Attack-What Causes It?

The simple answer is anxiety. But what is anxiety? it's usually defined as a state of apprehension or fear which arises when you think your being threatened, so anxiety is a response to to danger or threat. It is a natural mechanism of your mind and body to protect you from harm or when you imagine you're being threatened. It really is a form of built in protection,It is a very common human emotion and most of us experience it at some time in our lives.

However, most people who have never experienced a panic attack, or extreme anxiety, just don't realize how terrifying and distressing it can be. It may or may not reassure you but you're not alone. It's been estimated that in America alone nearly 5% of the population experiences some sort of anxiety disorder.

work place stress
work place stress

Panic Attack -Symptoms

When faced with danger, you're brain sends signals to a section of your bodies nervous system. It is this system that is responsible for gearing the body up for action and also calms the body down and restores equilibrium. To carry out these two important functions, the autonomic nervous system has two subsections, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system is the one which reacts when you're threatened by danger or think you're being threatened. It reacts by preparing your body for "Fight or Flight" and causing the distressing symptoms of a panic attack.

The parasympathetic nervous system is the one that calms us down and restores a sense of balance.

Naturally the effects of a panic attack can vary from person to person, some people suffering their first ever panic attack think they are having a nervous breakdown or even a heart attack. Some of these first time sufferers  even call on the emergency services for help.

Panic Attack Symptoms

One of the common symptoms of a panic attack is being short of breath, you may even feel like you are being smothered. this can be a really frightening sensation. It's caused by the anxiety reaction getting your body ready for "fight or flight". It actually increases the rate of your breathing to increase the flow of oxygen to your body. The result is that you may experience hyperventilation and a feeling of tightness in your chest. The fact that you don't seem to be in control of your breathing only adds to your sense of panic. But the truth is it won't actually stop your breathing.

You might feel tingling and numbness in hands as your body gets ready to defend itself by moving blood to your biceps or thigh muscles, so you can be ready to either fight or run.

Dizziness or blurred vision may be experienced during a panic attack due to your pupils of your eyes dilating to let in more light and let you see the thing that is threatening you better. Blurred vision can also be a result of your increased breathing rate causing a small drop in the flow of blood to your head which can also cause light headedness and confusion.

As your body continues to try and get you ready to face the danger it thinks is threatening you it will decrease the rate of your digestive system which can leave you feeling nauseous. there can also be a lessening of saliva production which gives you a dry mouth.

A Panic Attack Is Frightening But Not Fatal

All these feeling described normally as symptoms are really sensations which you feel as your body rapidly undergoes physical changes preparing for “fight or flight”. And although they can certainly be terrifying they will in reality not cause you any harm. These are after all many of these same sensations you will experience after strenuous exercise. Naturally enough all of this activity within your body metabolism uses a lot of energy, the end result of which can leave you feeling absolutely tired and drained.

Of course you should always take the wise precaution of getting a check up from your doctor to make sure your panic attacks are just that and nothing more serious.

Comments 9 comments

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

In my twenties and thirties I suffered badly from panic attacks and doing the most simple thing like going to the shops or getting a bus into town could be a major problem at times. I lost jobs from having too much time off on the sick suffering from "anxiety states." I used to get palpitations and hyperventilate. I was on Valium for seven years and that made me worse not better and it was hell getting off the stuff!

KevCC profile image

KevCC 7 years ago Author

Hope you're doing well these days.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Yes, thanks, I am well over all that now but still have a tendency to chronic shyness. If I am on stage I am fine but off it I often don't know what to say.

John Tavern 7 years ago

I suffered from anxiety and chronic shyness as well. I did theater for a while too, and eventually had to give it up because of anxiety. I finally learned to confront my panic and have been over it for almost two years. Good luck to you guys as well! I hope you can beat yours like I did!!!

KevCC profile image

KevCC 7 years ago Author

Good for you John.

Cassandra_Evers profile image

Cassandra_Evers 7 years ago

Panic Attack is the result of the Anxiety.

brittney 6 years ago

I am 17... i havent gone to the doctors or anything yet but lately i have been getting terrifying panic attacks... and they usuelly just happen at night. Like i may not even be afraid of anything and they just kick in and out of no where i feel like i am dying. which is weird cause i am actually a happy person. Is there a way to prevent them or to get them to stop easier once they start?

KevCC profile image

KevCC 6 years ago Author

Hi Brittney, first off see your Doctor.

brittney 6 years ago

i am totally too embarresed too

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