Having a full-blown panic attack is one of the most unpleasant things you can experience in your lifetime. They have a tendency to appear with almost no warning and when they do appear they stick around for a lot longer than you want – ideally you want to spend zero time dealing with them.
But are panic attacks really that bad?
Do they really affect people so much they can’t function properly?
The simple answer to this is ‘Yes’ panic attacks really are that bad and the first time you have to deal with even a mild attack on your own the experience will change how you feel about anxiety disorders in general. A lot of people, including many doctors, have lumped anxiety disorders into the same group as ‘back pain’ and ‘migraines’ because unless the person is in the middle of a severe panic attack there are no outward symptoms of there being anything wrong with them. The reality is though that the “patient” is genuinely suffering and would gladly do almost anything to stop their panic attacks from happening.
Human beings are emotional creatures and this is more than just an off-the-cuff statement because the human brain works in this order: Emotion -> Logic. This basically means that the emotional centre of your brain “thinks” before the logical part does. This is to give us an instant awareness of and reaction to threats to our safety but it also means that our body gets flooded with adrenaline to deal with the threat or to simply run away from it as fast as our legs can carry us. A panic attack is when some part of your conscious or subconscious mind thinks you’re in danger and that’s when you start to see the symptoms of your panic attack appear.
Here’s a quick list of the symptoms of a panic attack:
Increased heart rate
Chest pains or tightness in chest
Feeling of nausea (sick stomach)
Sweating hands or face
Shaking in the hands, legs or arms
As you can see from the list of panic attack symptoms the signs should be obvious but that’s not always the case. The first sign of a panic attack can just be a feeling of unease which builds into a feeling of heightened fear. As the body starts to prepare to fight or run away that feeling now builds into a feeling of dread and then panic. Your emotional brain is already taking over the show and preparing you to get away to safety or to knock down whatever is threatening you.
Except with a panic attack there’s no actual attacker or assailant and there’s nothing to run away from but your body thinks there is a very real threat to it. You can also see from these symptoms just why a panic attack can be easily confused with a coronary event like a heart attack for example.
The symptoms you see listed here cam be brought about because a person has to leave their house or maybe even do something like take a shower – it can be that simple.