Defining and Understanding a Panic Attack

Panic attacks are almost by definition unpleasant for everyone who has them. They happen when our minds are unable to cope with our worries or stresses and they can be very difficult to control if you don’t know how or you don’t understand why they happen. Getting that insight into how your body and mind are linked during a panic attack is almost essential in learning how to overcome them.

Firstly you must understand the physiological processes that happen in our bodies when we are stressed and anxious. Our body perceives our anxiety as us being in a life threatening situation. In ancient times this would most likely have been because we are being chased by a predator, not that we are behind at work. Still, this evolutionary throwback remains and our body prepares us to either fight the threat or run from it by releasing the hormone adrenaline; a process known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. If the adrenaline remains unused, as it often does in modern day stressful situations then we suffer the symptoms of anxiety; sweating, racing heart, tightness in the chest, nausea and dizziness amongst others. If the worry or the stressful situation remains or worsens then more and more adrenaline gets released and unused, pumping through our system and resulting in a panic attack where we are breathless, our mind is racing, we’re scared and desperate for relief.

The sole driving force behind a panic attack is our own thoughts. As humans we find it all too easy to catastrophize a situation or perceive something as a threat when it is not at all. We are sometimes irrational by nature and while that might fill you with dread as you have to face your fears to overcome panic attacks, it should fill you with joy because you have 100% control over it. Don’t be afraid that you will fail in getting over your fears because if you really want to do it then you absolutely can. The best way to do this is to first enlist the help of someone you trust and someone who knows what they’re dealing with. Here your choice should be a trained therapist with whom you feel comfortable. They will teach you better ways of coping with your stress, a different way of viewing the situations that worry you and ways to rationalize your thoughts so that they don’t interfere with your enjoyment of life. This help from another person is almost essential as it’s difficult to see things from another perspective until you are shown another. In many places certain forms of therapy are free for under 21s and there are a great number of different options for anyone over this age.

Hopefully now that you know more about panic attacks and you can understand why you are having them, you can move onto the next stage of tackling them head on. This may be scary but on the other side of anxiety, the side where you are free of it, the effort seems well worth the reward.

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