Living with panic attacks is difficult. Not only can the physical and emotional symptoms of an attack disrupt your life and leave you feeling drained, but the fear of having another attack can drastically alter your behavior. Luckily, nobody who experiences a panic attack is alone, and there are many constructive ways to seek help and move beyond these daunting episodes.
A panic attack is an exaggerated version of your body’s natural response to danger. The physical symptoms include chest pain, difficulty breathing, trembling, and nausea. Psychologically, you may feel that the situation is not real or that you have lost connection with your body. Many people will also experience a catastrophic fear of losing control or dying. These symptoms often last for up to 30 minutes, but an extended panic attack may persist for hours or days.
It is important to remember that your brain reacts to threats it perceives, not just threats that are there. Having a panic attack for no reason can leave people feeling embarrassed. The embarrassment and worry about future attacks can increase the likelihood of another episode, forcing you to alter your behavior.
It is crucial to remind yourself that panic attacks are not fatal. The physical and emotional symptoms may convince you that you are having a heart attack, but that is not the case. Panic attacks are only dangerous if you faint and injure yourself falling or if you place yourself in danger trying to escape.
However, panic attacks can have several long-term severe consequences. Repeated episodes can aggravate an underlying cardiovascular issue, making heart attacks more likely in the future. Furthermore, the fear or shame you feel may cause you to avoid panic attack triggers such as people, places, and essential responsibilities in your life. Isolation can damage relationships and impact your quality of life.
Remember: You are not alone! Many people experience panic attacks, and resources are available to help them overcome them. Common coping mechanisms include meditation/relaxation, physical exercise, confronting triggers directly, and seeking professional help.
Consider speaking to a doctor if your symptoms interfere with your relationships, work, or everyday activities. Persistent physical symptoms could lead to health issues down the road, so make sure to see a healthcare provider if your panic attacks last for long periods. Finally, see a doctor immediately if you find yourself turning to drugs or alcohol to manage any of your symptoms. With healthy coping mechanisms and a thoughtful plan, you can overcome the crippling effects of panic attacks. You are not alone!