Hearing panic attack warning bells?

You are imagining worst case scenarios about how your interview will go tomorrow and suddenly, you feel like death is looming 9 of skycastle. You start breathing heavily, your hands are trembling, you’re sweating, your stomach is hurting and your heart is pounding out of your chest. Are you about to have a heart attack? Are you about to die?

A panic attack is stealthy. One minute you’re driving or watching TV, and the next, you feel an overwhelming surge of fear and impending death. The physical symptoms that come with a panic attack lead you to believe that you are physically ill, when it is actually psychological, but they can help to identify the onset of an episode.

  • A racing heart.
  • Chest pain.
  • Nausea and stomach cramps.
  • Hot or cold flushes.
  • Intense feeling of dread.

It’s an adrenaline rush
Basically, a panic attack can be seen as your brain tricking your body into thinking you’re about to be attacked, when in reality, you’re not. The feeling of danger that comes with a panic attack triggers your body’s fight or flight system, which causes the physical symptoms experienced during an episode. Your body quickly gears up to protect you, but if these symptoms are felt when there is no real danger, this causes you to feel uncomfortable and panicky.

Your adrenal gland is stimulated which releases hormones like adrenaline. This causes your heart rate and breathing to speed up, and your blood pressure is increased. Your muscles tense up to prepare your body for a physical fight and these changes cause your body to heat up and sweat.

Usually, these symptoms would help your body to prepare in case of a threat and help you to react better in stressful situations, but because a panic attack and its symptoms occur when there is no actual threat, the symptoms don’t make any sense to you. Sudden, extreme symptoms like these cause feelings of dread and it may make you panic to the extent you experience a panic attack.

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Make it go away
Although there is no “cure” for panic attacks, there are ways to manage the symptoms or stop the panic attack in its tracks:

  1. Don’t run By nature, you tend to avoid what you find threatening, so when you have a panic attack at a certain place, running and never returning seems like the safe thing to do. Imagine you have a panic attack in a supermarket and you decide to flee. You will subconsciously remember the supermarket as a threatening place and might not visit it to buy groceries again. So it is important not to run from the environment you had a panic attack in, so that you can learn that it’s not the situation or environment causing the panic.
  2. Breathe When you have a panic attack, you take quick, short breaths, which cause you to hyperventilate and this helps chug along that feeling of panic. To calm yourself, take deep, long breaths. Take long slow breaths through your nose to fill your lungs. Breathe in to the count of three and then exhale slowly.
  3. Banish bad thoughts Negative thoughts are playing on a loop during a panic attack. You need to make a concerted effort to STOP the thoughts in their tracks. It may mean saying out loud, “STOP!” Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Log on through the member portal or on the Hello Doctor app to ask our Doctors about how to deal with emergencies.