“Nothing to fear but fear itself” – Daniel Fryer
A panic attack is several things at once, none of them fun.
It’s an episode of intense fear or foreboding terror that’s usually accompanied by unpleasant bodily sensations (such as dizziness and shaking, smothering or choking sensations, a pounding heart, feeling sick, dizzy or not really there and more), together with a difficulty in reasoning, coupled with a sense of imminent danger or impending doom, followed by the urge to get the hell out of wherever it is you are.
Panic attacks are an intense psychological condition, but are usually experienced as one-off events, usually in the face of an anxiety-provoking or stressful situation.
They can occur as a symptom on their own or be associated with other conditions, such as agoraphobia, social phobia, a specific phobia or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And, sometimes, they lead to panic disorder.
Panic Disorder is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as the presence of recurrent unexpected panic attacks, followed by at least one month of either:
- Persistent anxiety about having more attacks
- Worry about the possible implication or consequences of the attacks
- A marked change in behaviour because of the attacks (such as avoiding certain situations)
- During the attacks, at least four of the following sensations or feelings are experienced: shortness of breath, dizziness or faintness, increased heart rate or a pounding heart, trembling or shaking, feelings of choking, sweating, stomach distress or nausea, feeling like you or your surroundings are not quite real, feelings of numbness or tingling, hot flushes or chills, chest pains or discomfort, fear of dying, fear of losing control, fear of going mad
- The attacks are not directly caused by a drug or general medical condition
So, if you’re suffering from this particular disorder, not only will you be worrying about the implications and consequences of having another panic attack (literally making yourself anxious about getting anxious) but you’ll also probably be scared that you’re either losing your mind or are going to die from the massive amounts of anxiety you experience.