Panic Attacks: What is happening to me?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Jenny Charles MBACP (Accred)
15th June, 2007
What is happening to me?
Panic attacks often start without warning and can last for minutes or hours. They arise as a natural consequence of extreme stress, anxiety or fear when adrenaline is released into the bloodstream preparing you for 'fight or flight'. Symptoms can be intense, you may experience rapid breathing, racing heart, light-headedness or dizziness, sweating, dry mouth, feeling sick, tingling or numbness in face and hands, weakness in the limbs and exhaustion. The symptoms themselves can be very frightening: people often fear they might do something uncontrolled or that they are going mad (you're not) and, once a panic attack has occurred, feel panic at the thought of one reoccurring!
If you are having panic attacks you are sending a powerful message to yourself; something is wrong and you can no longer avoid noticing. Panic symptoms become easier to manage if you can understand their meaning.
This is not always easy to do alone and it can be helpful to get support from someone you trust or someone whose professional role it is to offer calm, understanding and unbiased help.
Your symptoms may be telling you that you have been pushing aside painful thoughts or strong conflicting feelings - anxiety, trauma, loss of confidence, disappointment, anger, rage, extreme frustration or fear - for a very long time. Perhaps these thoughts and feelings have become 'unthinkable' and now you are experiencing them in a different way, a way you can no longer avoid taking notice of.
Unfortunately we often come to associate the anxiety with particular situations, which we then try to avoid at all cost, creating a cycle of self-limiting behaviour and panic reaction.
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