Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack knows they are terrifying. The first time it happens is often the worst because there is often confusion to what is really happening. Many people experiencing panic attacks end up in the E.R., thinking they are experiencing a heart attack or even dying. Despite the terror that a panic attack can bring, they are not uncommon. Experiencing a panic attack does not mean you have a mental health disorder, they are a symptom. Sometimes a panic attack can be the body’s way of getting you to pay attention that there is too much on your plate.
There are many symptoms of a panic attack including:
-increased heart rate
-thoughts of impending doom
-shortness of breath and feeling like you can’t catch your breath
-tightness in the chest
A panic attack typically lasts 10-30 minutes and then starts to subside. Many people may still feel uneasy or anxious for some time after the attack. I would encourage anyone who has experienced a panic attack to first reflect on what is going on in your life. Are work or home especially stressful right now? Have you been getting enough sleep and looking after yourself? If you find that there are some stressors going on in your environment, a panic attack can be a wake-up call that you may need to do things in your life a little bit differently.
If you are experiencing panic attacks frequently, or they have seem to have started out of the blue, please check in with your health care provider. Panic attacks can be a symptom of a mental health disorder that may need addressing. There is also a mental health disorder, called Panic Disorder that is characterized by frequent panic attacks, either with or without a trigger.
Whether panic attacks are a symptom of a mental health disorder, or whether they are your body’s way of getting attention, don’t panic over panic. Panic attacks can be managed with relaxation exercises, changing your thinking habits, and medication. Panic attacks are more common than what people think and are absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. The more you know about panic attacks, the less power they have over you and the quicker you can get back to living your life.