Am I Having a Panic Attack?

My heart is racing. It is pounding in my chest. I feel completely out of control. Maybe I am going crazy? Maybe I am having a heart attack? I feel like I am dying! I can’t breathe! Have you ever experienced any of these symptoms?

A panic attack is an intense wave of anxiety. It can come on unexpectedly and become immediately debilitating. Attacks often strike out of the blue, without any warning, and sometimes with no apparent trigger. They occur at any time, for instance, when driving, relaxing, in public, and at night when you are trying to sleep.

Furthermore, you may have encountered panic-inducing situations that trigger your body’s sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system or you parasympathetic dorsivagal system (freeze) response. For example, your triggers could be situations such as public speaking, being around strangers, keeping up with school work, or excessive worry about the future. Or, you may have no idea what is bring on your panic attacks. They may just come out of the blue. 

For some individuals, your panic attack(s) may be related to other mental health symptoms, especially anxiety, depression, trauma, and low self-worth. Regardless of the cause, be assured that panic attacks are a treatable condition.

Panic Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Heart palpitations or racing heart
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Choking feeling
  • Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy
  • Feeling like you are having a heart attack

What to Do

If you are not sure that you are having a panic attack, seek medical attention. Physical health can also contribute to the severity and frequency of panic attacks. If you are having a panic attack, splashing cold water on your face will quickly reduce your symptoms. Cold water helps you become present and begins to decrease your physiological sensations that make you feel like your body is out of control.

Become the observer. Pay attention to your symptoms. Try to step out of yourself as if you are looking at what is going on within you. Take a compassionate approach and investigate what is going on. You may not have the answers. However, what you are doing is separating yourself from the event which will begin to eliminate the attack.

Remember the more you try to avoid or suppress your anxiety (not addressing it), the more likely you are to have a panic attack (even if they seem to come out of nowhere).

For more information on how to eliminate your panic attacks, better understand your anxiety and other distressing symptoms, please make an appointment today!

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  1. Overcoming panic attacks and anxiety can happen. I have accomplished it. It comes with a lot of work and facing your emotions rather than avoiding them or “stuffing” them down until they overwhelm you. You have to deal with your emotions somehow, so instead of allowing the negative reactions deal with them (anxiety, panic attacks, and other physical manifestations) make an appointment with Catherine to learn how to deal with them in a positive way. And if you have had some form of trauma in your life, join our trauma;moving forward group. On Monday evenings and as a group we will work towards being in the present moment and getting through these issues.
    Good Luck!

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