The term ‘panic attack’ has become commonly used in our culture; it usually refers to someone feeling in a ‘state of panic’. The feelings associated are extreme feelings of anxiety. Commonly people describe palpitations, feeling hot throughout their body , sweaty and clammy hands, finding it difficult to breathe. It is different for everybody and most people will understand that they have had a natural response to a real or perceived threat. They put it down to experience and the feelings subside. Some may say it is caused by feeling embarrassed and they just want to escape the situation and others may describe a feeling of wanting to attack and defend themselves. What they have experienced is the ‘fight or flight’ body response to anxiety and fear.
For those people who experience an intensified panic attack because they feel genuinely terrified although there is no obvious threat to them; they may become fearful of a repeat of this feeling. They may encounter ‘passing out’, pains in their chest or other symptoms that cause distress and anxiety. This can lead to a fear of having another panic attack; if they then experience this on a frequent and regular basis, they may have a panic disorder.
Our specialised clinicians and therapists have been successfully working on the treatment of anxiety disorders. They can carefully assist you in overcoming your fears and combating panic attacks, so that you can actively take full part in your life again.
What is a panic disorder?
Panic disorder is when someone experiences recurrent panic attacks without a clear cause or fixed trigger. This can lead to a fairly constant state of fear of having another panic attack, leading to a cycle whereby the fear of having a panic attack can cause more panic attacks.
The exact cause of panic disorder is unknown, but there are factors that have been found to be linked to the onset, although these do not apply to everyone. Everyone experiences panic attacks slightly differently, so the below symptoms are exhaustive rather than definitive.
Panic disorder symptoms: panic attacks
The panic attack symptoms usually last 5-20 minutes. Be mindful that everyone experiences panic attacks slightly differently.
- Pounding heartbeat
- Shortness of breath, choking feeling, or hyperventilation
- Faintness or dizziness
- Trembling or shaking
- Chest or stomach pain
- Temperature change (hot or cold)
- Numbness or pins and needles
- Dry mouth
- Tinnitus (ringing in your ears)
- Urge to use the toilet
- Feeling of dread
- Feeling of detachment from one’s own body
- Feeling of loss of control
Associated symptoms of panic disorders
- Agoraphobia (fear of situations or places that may cause panic, or where escape or help may be difficult)
- Significant worry surrounding experiencing further panic attacks
- Avoidance of places or situations where you have previously had a panic attack
- State of anxiety and tension due to fear of future panic attacks
Causes: how a panic disorder develops
- History or current experience of anxiety
- Stressful or traumatic life event (e.g. bereavement, divorce, childbirth)
- Family history of panic attacks (may reflect a genetic component)
- Use of stimulants (e.g. caffeine, cocaine)
- Medication withdrawal. Imbalance of chemical messengers in the brain (neurotransmitters)