In this article we will look at the symptoms of a panic attack. A panic attack will feel scary and like you are unable to breathe or even having a heart attack. Let me reassure you that you are physically fine. These are rather strong physical sensations created by anxiety. I help people with anxiety and panic attacks in London and online. At my London office in King’s Cross I have helped countless people using hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy also helped me reduce and eliminate panic attacks many years ago. I do hope you will soon be feeling calmer and less anxious. Get in touch to find out how hypnotherapy can help you with panic attack symptoms.
What are the symptoms of a panic attack?
Besides extreme feelings of panic or anxiety, panic attacks are accompanied by several physical symptoms. “Full blown” panic attacks involve four or more of these symptoms. While some people may experience “limited-symptom” panic attacks, consisting of fewer than four. Typical symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Accelerated heart rate or palpitations
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- An intense fear that something bad is going to happen (e.g. death)
- Choking sensation
Panic attacks usually last for between five and twenty minutes but some people report their symptoms lasting for around one hour.
What exactly is a panic attack?
Panic attacks are episodes of sudden intense fear or anxiety, accompanied by physical symptoms, which can peak within minutes. They can last seconds or hours, but most last somewhere between five minutes and twenty minutes. They can occur without warning, even during a previously calm state. Again symptoms of a panic attack are not life threatening. You would be surprised to discover how many people have panic attacks. We simply don’t talk about anxiety much.
The intensity, duration, and number of symptoms of a panic attack that manifest can vary from episode to episode and from person to person. The feelings of anxiety and dread, and the physical sensations of a knot in the stomach and a racing heartbeat are so strong, that some people think they are having a heart attack. Racing thoughts can also lead people to wrongly think that the episode is symptomatic of heart disease, breathing disorders, or even thyroid disease. If you are concerned about your health, of course you must check this out with a medical professional. However, as a general rule, a panic attack is not dangerous at all. With clients in London, I have found hypnotherapy to be very effective for reducing symptoms of a panic attack and the associated anxiety.
Many people suffering a panic attack for the first time will call for an ambulance. Yet it is usually not necessary to go to a hospital. Yes, a panic attack is highly distressing and unpleasant, but panic attacks usually aren’t dangerous and don’t warrant hospital treatment.
Why do panic attacks occur?
Panic attacks are basically caused by the body suddenly going into “fight or flight mode”. This consists of natural, built-in mechanisms in our bodies. These safety mechanisms have evolved to be able to deal with danger by either fighting an attacker or fleeing. This is an ancient anxiety pathway from when dangers were truly life-threatening. To do either of these things, we must be as fast and strong as possible, so our bodies are flooded with adrenaline, which speeds up our breathing and heart rate to get more oxygen into and around our bodies to all our cells as fast as possible to deal with the threat. This causes most of the physical symptoms.
However today, a panic attack can come about when we feel we are able to cope or in a heightened stressful situation. Common examples are exam stress, divorce, when a person suffers a bereavement or experiences something traumatic such as abuse, a road traffic accident or bullying at work.
What triggers panic attack symptoms?
The fight-or-flight response which causes the physical symptoms of a panic attack is triggered by the sudden onset of fear. Quite what triggers that fear is harder to say – in some cases, phobias, emotional circumstances, or stressful situations may be the cause, but in many cases there is no clear obvious reason.
However, once physical symptoms begin, that can alarm the person even more, causing the release of more adrenaline, which only worsens the symptoms. We essentially now become fearful of the physical symptoms of anxiety themselves. This is where hypnotherapy for panic attacks can be helpful to reduce that anxiety significantly.
When people are more prone to experiencing panic attacks
People living with various conditions may also get panic attacks, suggesting the other condition is the cause of the panic attack. Such conditions include PTSD, OCD, hyperthyroidism, social anxiety disorder and depression. People who regularly experience panic attacks may also be diagnosed with panic disorder.
Are symptoms of a panic attack the same as anxiety attacks?
People who experience anxiety attacks are usually aware of clear triggers, such as certain social situations, changes in routine or ongoing health issues, which cause them to occur. On the other hand, panic attack symptoms can occur at any time, usually suddenly and unexpectedly, without an obvious trigger in some cases.
How can panic attacks be prevented?
Some people try to avoid panic attacks by avoiding situations that could be stressful, raise their heart rate, or that they associate with having panic attacks. Avoiding drugs, alcohol and excessive consumption of caffeine is recommended. Exercise is encouraged, as it can be a way to relieve stress in some cases. During hypnotherapy sessions we often talk about how to prevent anxiety rising to panic and ways to increase calm. While identifying the source of your stress and what triggers panic attacks is a good strategy, it is important not to restrict your daily life.
Which treatments can be useful for people suffering recurrent panic attacks?
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be helpful in identifying the causes and negative thoughts that might lead to panic attacks. As mentioned hypnotherapy is extremely helpful for reducing panic attacks.
Hypnotherapy to reduce symptoms of a panic attack
If you have experienced symptoms of a panic attack, try hypnotherapy. I see people in London and online. Get in touch today and find out more and how hypnotherapy for panic attacks could help you feel calmer and more relaxed.