Panic Disorders Explained

Panic disorder, often referred to as panic attacks, is a highly distressing form of anxiety disorder. Individuals frequently describe the experience as feeling like they are “dying” or losing control, desperately waiting for it to subside. These intense episodes of fear and discomfort strike unexpectedly, but they typically peak within a matter of minutes.

These are the primary physical and psychological symptoms of panic attacks:

1. Rapid Heartbeat: Difficulty breathing or a feeling of choking, which can exacerbate anxiety.

2. Shortness of Breath: Difficulty breathing or a feeling of choking or smothering, which can exacerbate anxiety.

3. Chest Pain or Discomfort: A sensation of tightness or pain in the chest, which can sometimes be mistaken for a heart attack.

4. Sweating: Profuse sweating, often accompanied by trembling or shaking.

5. Nausea or Upset Stomach: A sense of nausea or discomfort in the abdominal area, which may lead to a fear of vomiting or losing control of bodily functions.

6. Dizziness or Light-headedness: A feeling of faintness or dizziness, which can be distressing and contribute to the fear of passing out.

7. Tingling or Numbness: You might experience sensations of tingling or numbness in the hands, feet, or face, often described as feeling disconnected from your body.

8. Hot or Cold Flashes: Sudden and intense sensations of heat or cold can contribute to overall discomfort.

9. Fear of Losing Control or Going Crazy: Many individuals who experience panic attacks report a profound fear of losing control, going crazy, or even dying.

The unpredictability of panic attacks often leads to avoidance behaviours, limiting one’s quality of life and affecting daily activities, travel, and socialising.

Panic attacks are not dangerous, but they are undeniably disruptive and distressing, interfering with one’s ability to live freely and normally. They occur when the nervous system is in a heightened state of alert, always switched on and unregulated.

This happens when the subconscious mind decides that it is in your best interest to be hypervigilant and starts detecting “danger,” even when it’s not real. The good news is that this state is reversible.

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