'Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action' - Walter Anderson
How can I tell whether I'm having a panic attack?
These episodes come about suddenly, without really leaving you much time to understand the situation. The symptoms reach their maximum intensity in a few minutes, and the whole circus lasts on average 30 minutes. But the good news is that by becoming a regular sufferer, I've learned to recognize them by force of circumstance, and that's how today I see them coming.
Although these manifestations vary from person to person, or from attack to attack, they are always physical and mental, and can be categorized as follows:
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The main physical indications an episode has begun
- Heart palpitations, when the rhythm of my heart accelerates and is closer to 100 beats per minute than the normal 60. It can also beat irregularly, this is what doctors call tachycardia.
- A respiratory discomfort with a choking feeling. It's scientifically proven that when I panic, I inhale and exhale a lot of air quickly. As a result, I accumulate a lot of carbon dioxide and lack oxygen, hence the feeling of suffocation.
- Chest pains. Because my whole body is tensing up.
- Trembling or shaking muscles caused by repeated and involuntary contractions of my muscles, normal in case of fear.
- Sweating, sometimes accompanied by chills, sometimes by hot flashes. This can be explained by the hormonal imbalance I am experiencing.
- As in the case of intense stress, my stomach is knotted, and I feel pain in my lower abdomen.
- This can go as far as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- My senses are also impaired: I notice that my vision is blurred, my throat is tight and a hive of bees seems to have taken up residence in my ears. My ears are buzzing and suffer from very disturbing tinnitus.
- Finally, this loss of control can result in discomfort, dizziness, or vertigo.
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What goes on in my head during this time?
When these episodes get underway, our heads are more likely to follow our body into a state of panic rather than reason with us and calm us down... This is what fuels this vicious cycle:
- Fear of suffocation (since my breathing is impaired)...
- Fear of fainting (due to dizziness)
- The fear of having a heart attack (because, as a reminder, my throbbing is freewheeling)
- Fear of going crazy (I can't control anything and I can't reason with myself).
- Fear of dying
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What brings these attacks on?
Although they come on quickly, panic attacks don't happen by chance. They are often provoked by a period of high anxiety and stress. Discover the follow common triggers:
- If I am a subject with anxious terrain, in other words, if in everyday life, anxiety, and nervousness characterize me. The stress by which I easily let myself be carried away opens the door to these attacks.
- If it’s a reaction to a threat, real or interpreted as such. The fact that I feel helpless in the face of the situation causes this loss of self-control.
- Quite simply, if I have consumed large quantities of products such as coffee or cigarettes.
- It can be associated with a phobia, if the situation that caused me this panic echoes one of my deepest fears.
- If it makes me relive a trauma, such as an accident, or a sudden break-up.
- If I am experiencing depressive disorders.
- If I'm in a situation where the fear of dying and not being rescued is strong.
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Editor's opinion - You can't die from a panic attack.
"It's true that a panic attack mimics a serious physical problem," explains Dominique Servant, head of the stress and anxiety unit at Lille University Hospital. Chest pain, dizziness, difficulty breathing...". It feels like we're going to die, but it's a false alarm, there's no medical cause. "So when the crisis comes, think about it, and avoid falling into the vicious circle of panic.
To do this, our expert advises breathing slowly and deeply so as not to hyperventilate. There are indeed many ways to manage a panic attack, from soft music, to meditation, to visualization! You will soon find the right one.
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