Panic attacks and Panic Disorder
If you have ever experienced a panic attack, you will have a pretty good idea it’s not just a case of pull your self together. It’s completely frightening.
Hannah’s Anxiety Story:
I always remember one particular panic attack, and there’s been a few. Life was pretty difficult at that time. I was coping with a lot of stress. I had been suffering from panic attacks for some time, and have even found myself in A&E on several occasions.
This panic attack involved the dreaded supermarket shop, and i mean that in general and not necessarily with a panic attack! I had done all my shopping, gone to the checkout, emptied my trolley and filled the whole conveyer belt. I don’t know why it happened there and then but I started to feel really anxious while waiting for the person before me to pay.
I suddenly had this overwhelming fear that I couldn’t breathe, it felt like my throat was closing. I went dizzy, started to shake, I felt really hot, I really thought I was going to pass out and die. My thoughts and behaviours turned into a vicious cycle. The more I thought about it, the more symptoms appeared. Trying not to think about it is a lot easier said than done when your experiencing symptoms of a panic attack and at that point I started to feel claustrophobic.
Yes! I left, and I left all the shopping without saying a word to the poor lady at the checkout. Eventually, my symptoms started to subside. Thinking about it now I can’t believe I did it, but at the time, I just couldn’t control how I was feeling.
Do I still have panic attacks? I still suffer with anxiety from time to time and I think I always will, it’s part of me. Panic attacks, no. I have learnt ways to manage my anxiety, and I’m now able to avoid a full blown panic attack. My GP prescribed me anxiety medication for a period which really gave me that boost to get me back out there, it helped me gain back my confidence and self -esteem.
Panic Attacks Can Be Frightening
For the person experiencing a panic attack an intense fear of psychological and physical symptoms can be so overwhelming. They can last from anything between 10 minutes to an hour and can appear without warning and for no apparent reason. Certain situations can trigger a panic attack, stressful life events such as bereavement, losing a job, divorce, social anxiety. Once pressures subside, your body will usually rebalance. It may be that you only have one panic attack in your lifetime.
You may still have days when you are anxious, who doesn’t? Nobody can say they don’t have any stress in their life. Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life, and everybody has different ways of coping. If you are not able to carry on with everyday situations, and anxiety is controlling how you live your life, this can become a mental health disorder.
When panic attack symptoms persist and become more frequent in everyday situations, you may have a condition called panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder. For example, you may have had a panic attack in a particular place. You then become worried about being in that situation again, therefore you avoid that place completely. This intense fear can have a huge impact on people’s lives. Social anxiety and some medical conditions can increase the likelihood of anxiety and panic attacks.
Please be aware there are other medical conditions with panic attack symptoms, and you may not necessarily be experiencing a panic attack. Talk to your GP explaining your symptoms to rule out any other medical conditions.
The first step is to recognise that your anxiety is taking control of your life. Talk about how your feeling with your GP who may suggest different treatment options, helping you to take control of your panic attacks.
It’s not always easy to talk about mental health or even admit there is something wrong. You may think people will judge you, not understand how your feeling, and the worst thing, tell you to get a grip. Talk to someone you can trust to be supportive or talk to others that have been through a similar experience.
Opening up, understanding your triggers and learning ways on how to manage your anxiety is the key to you bouncing back to your old self.
The important thing to remember is, panic attacks are harmless and can be treated.