Some of the worst things in my life never happened – Mark Twain

Panic Attacks

A panic attack or extreme fear can come on in a matter of minutes and escalate into intense emotional and physical discomfort. A person experiences any number of symptoms including rapid heartbeat, sweating, numbness, chest pains, and feeling faint. The world may suddenly seem unreal, they become afraid of going crazy, or feel they’re having a heart attack – so much so that they rush to the Emergency Room.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Panic or anxiety attacks are often experienced as a feeling of dread (an intense fear that something terrible is about to happen) like you might die, lose control of yourself, or lose your sanity. These experiences can be extremely frightening, especially since they can occur at anytime and anywhere-maybe while driving in your car, standing in line or lying in your bed, or even just watching TV. Such attacks may seem quite unusual and scary when encountered, but they are a very common result of “anxiety overload”

What causes panic attacks?

Typically an attack begins when remnant worries and fears lingering in your mind become misinterpreted as real life danger by your subconscious mind. Your nervous system reacts by releasing adrenaline to help you deal with the invisible “threat” (that’s the fight or flight response). This adrenaline burst is not related to any visible, present danger, there is nothing to fight or flee from, but you do not consciously recognize this as out of context, so you naturally become concern/ fearful of that adrenaline feeling itself. This additional fear then feeds the adrenaline reaction, which in turns escalates your fear even further. As these two forces feed each other, a full blown attack occurs.

The Anxiety and Panic Attack Sequence

  1. Long term stress, worries, fears accumulate in your mind.
  2. Your subconscious mind eventually misinterprets those fears as real dangers.
  3. To help you handle the “danger, “fight or flight” hormones like adrenaline are released by the subconscious.
  4. Since you don’t consciously see danger you don’t recognize the “out of context” hormone sensations. Therefore you also fear that! ( heart palpitations, hyperventilating, sweating palms, nervous feeling, dizzy…..)
  5. In response to this increased fear, even more ” flight or fight” hormones are released. But there is nothing to fight and nowhere to flee.
  6. Your fear increases as the sensations increase.
  7. Even more hormones are released.
  8. Steps 6 and 7 repeat and amplify.
  9. PANIC

Once you’ve experience the terror, it is very likely that you’ll become more sensitive to the anxiety attack symptoms that precede it- and therefore more likely to experience a second one. For example, a slight malaise or stress may get you feeling fearful of having it happen again. Ironically, it’s that very fear that gets the adrenaline flowing, which starts the cycle all over again.
Some people have specific fears or phobias – excessive fear and panic attacks when exposed to a particular object or situation, for example: elevators, escalators, lightening storms, high places, flying in an airplane, funerals, or insects. The person often realizes the fear is irrational but can do little to stop it.

If you have a phobia or are experiencing panic attacks, panic disorders therapy can help. Please contact me for a consultation.