When anxiety goes on for a long time we try to change our behavior in order to deal with the anxiety, we become tired, depressed and restless and we may lose appetite too. Sleep may pose a problem and often result in bad dreams and we try to avoid any further frightening by withdrawing from life in extreme circumstances.
These are both descriptions which can lead to a panic attack.
So what is a panic attack?
It starts abruptly then reaches its maximum within just a few minutes but can last from only a few minutes up to half an hour in length.
For it to be classed as a panic attack it must have at least four of these physical symptoms and have a feeling of intense fear.
- Chest tightening
- Abdominal pain/ discomfort/ nausea
- Dry mouth
- Hot flushes
- Difficulty breathing
- Tingling in fingers
It is for this reason that many people who have panic attacks try hard to avoid the situation in which they experienced the panic. Some sufferers when indoors find opening a window can help.
Although the symptoms for fear and anxiety and panic attacks are very similar in nature the difference between fear and anxiety and a panic attack is that a panic attack is so intense and usually in a panic attack there is no threat, or if there is it is not usually enough to trigger panic. Panic attacks often seem to come from nowhere and often seem to the recipient as though they are dying as it is so severe although the bodily changes are not anything that will cause any problems.
There is often during panic attacks the feeling of "am I ill " or "am I going to die" which does not help as it perpetuates the feeling and causes more anxiety and therefore increases the attack.
There is also a feeling of shallow or quick breathing during a panic attack and this is called Hyperventilation Syndrome. This fast and shallow breathing exhales more carbon dioxide than normal from the blood causing less acid content in the blood. This leads to a feeling of tingling in the fingers and light headedness as well as sometimes causing muscle cramps too.
It is therefore not surprising that all of these lead to a vicious circle and in fact when breathing starts normally again these symptoms go away.
The one problem with these symptoms is that they often get misdiagnosed by Doctors and the wrong treatment is then given. This condition can occur anywhere and at any time during unaccustomed exercising for example when scuba diving. Because of this a lot of people think that anxiety disorder is a diagnosis in itself.
You may at some stage seen people breathing into paper bags and wondered what that was all about, well this is one way to deal with hyperventilation, the carbon dioxide levels in the bag slowly increase and as you re-breathe it the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood increase and change the acid levels in your blood back to normal.
This is not easy to do and a lot of people find this a difficult thing to do and instead prefer to be taught how to slow their breathing down and taking deeper breaths, by doing this they keep the length of inspiration and expiration the same which is important.
So panic attack symptoms are very similar to fear and anxiety and these tips here will help you identify the symptoms of a panic attack.