Panic attacks used to be a part of my daily life. From about the age of 18 to 25 I suffered from them constantly. What made matter worse for me was I had no idea what they were and what may have caused them. I just assumed I was going mad and coped the best way I could, badly.
This type of anxiety disorder is very common and is a by product of the natural way the body reacts to extreme stress i.e. to prepare to flight or flee.
Just knowing this can be a big help to sufferers, knowing that you’re not going mad but are experiencing a real reaction to stress and that the symptoms are a part of normal physical function.
The most common symptoms experienced during an attack are:
Sometimes the sufferer may also get pains in the chest leading them to believe they are having a heart attack. It is important to note that if you do experience any of these symptoms that you are properly diagnosed by a doctor, in case there are underlining health issues.
Good question, and one which has no one single answer. It may be due to a period of stress which has built up over time and has developed into panic. It may be caused by feelings of worthlessness, for instance middle aged women are more prone to these attacks and this may be because they feel they no longer have a role in life once the children have left home etc which can be stressful.
Although anyone can suffer from these attacks, it is more common in women. Some women even find that just before a period they can suffer these symptoms, probably caused by low blood sugars which can trigger feelings of anxiety.
If you are diagnosed with these attacks it is important to seek help as soon as possible. The main reason for this is that as I found, if left unchecked they can actually cause an attack in themselves. Just the fear of having another attack can trigger one off. So it is important that help is sought to nip them in the bud.
Some doctors will prescribe medication in the short term to help you cope if the symptoms are extreme, while you receive counselling. Just talking to someone you trust can help you overcome them, this can be a close friend or a professional who is trained to deal with this stress. This worked for me, I found someone who I trusted completely and who helped me to learn to face them and overcome them.
Also learning the correct way to breathe and how to control your thoughts during an attack may also help. They allow you to take back control and the panic attack will subside a lot quicker.
Of course learning and practicing the coping strategies or techniques which suit your personality will also enable you to manage the stress so that panic does not become a part of your problems and take hold.