Panic Attack Symptoms
Panic typically starts with emotional causes but those emotions stimulate intense physical symptoms that mimic heart attacks and other scary physical symptoms.
Panic attacks are overwhelming and scary. Your body gets revved up on fight or flight hormones—adrenaline and cortisol—and you can feel like your life is threatened.
Panic attacks are sometimes called anxiety attacks, but I see anxiety as somewhat less intense than panic. Panic is heightened extremely intense anxiety. (Anxiety can also come in waves like panic does, but typically anxiety more pervasive and less intense than panic.)
Similarly, people sometimes label their panic as stress. I have had many clients who only realized that they had previously experienced panic after I described the symptoms of panic. Prior to hearing the list of symptoms, they just thought that they had “stress.”
Panic usually comes in short attacks. Ten minutes to a half hour is the typical length of a panic attack. More rarely, they last up to a couple of hours. (The good news is that they pass.)
One of the common repercussions of having a panic attack is that from that point forward you can get anxiety about the potential of having another attack. You get anxiety about the anxiety. And you may change your behavior to avoid the type of circumstances that stimulated the panic attack.
I’ve had clients who stopped driving after having a panic attack while driving, or refuse to fly after having a panic attack on a flight, avoid elevators after a panic attack on an elevator . . . (I have successfully helped all of these people get over their panic and get back to driving, flying, and using elevators.)
I’ve had two panic attacks myself. The first one lasted about a half-hour and the second about an hour. During the second one, I lied down on the floor because I was afraid that I might pass out and I figured that if I did pass out I had nowhere to fall if I was already on the floor.
After that second attack, I took myself to one of my hypnotherapist friends and with her help, I never had another attack. But, I feel that those experiences gave me insight into panic and anxiety that has helped me help others.
Panic attack symptoms (anxiety attack symptoms)
- a surge of intense fear that comes in a wave of increasing intensity that typically peaks within a few minutes
Several (though not usually all) of these physical symptoms are typically present during the panic attack:
- racing heart
- shakiness or trembling
- feeling hot or cold
- breathing is fast or slow
- throat constriction feeling
- chest pain
- nausea or gastrointestinal distress
- dizziness or faint feeling
- numbness or tingling
- fear of losing control or “going crazy”
- intense fear of dying
A panic attack can be so intense that it sends you to the emergency room to get checked for a heart attack. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so don’t feel bad if you went to the ER just to be told it’s not a heart attack. Take it as good news and a wake-up call to seek out help with your anxiety.
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- Ann Silvers