By Elaine Ryan
If you have, or think you may have Panic Disorder or experience Panic Attacks, the information on this page is to provide you with information on the cause, symptoms, signs, and what to do to help yourself get your life back.
Not everyone who has Panic Attacks, develops Panic Disorder. In order to explain this, I shall talk about Panic Attacks first.
What is a Panic Attack?
Basically, one minute you are going about your business and the next you might break into a sweat, your heart is pounding out of your chest, it’s getting hard to breathe. You might feel like someone has placed a cushion over your mouth and nose and it feels like you are getting smothered or suffocated, even though there is nothing over your face. You are terrified and convinced that you are not breathing, there’s not enough air getting into your lungs. You check your pulse, and it may be rapid, or you might not be able to feel it at all. You are shaking, sweating and feeling complete and utter terror as you are having the thought (maybe for the first time in your life) that you are actually dying. If you have had as Anxiety Attack, you may have had different symptoms, but you will be able to relate to what I have just been talking about.
For a complete list of symptoms, please see here.
You could very well end up in hospital and get a series of tests, to be told “It’s ok, there’s nothing wrong with you, you have just had an Anxiety Attack.” If you are very accepting of this information, or if it gives you some sort of relief or explanation regarding what has just happened to you, you may never experience an attack again, as severe.
More than likely though, it is very hard for your brain to understand that what you have just experienced, is “just an anxiety attack.”
Panic Attacks take a serious toll on your body. You may well feel physically and emotionally exhausted afterwards, and, at the same time, feel “hyper” due to the rush of adrenalin in your body. With this in mind, it is extremely difficult to “just relax” and accept that there is nothing seriously wrong. More than likely, it is playing on your mind, what has just happened.
If this was your first attack, there would have been a slow build up of anxiety in your body to cause the anxiety attack in the first place. This will not just miraculously disappear just because you have been informed that there is nothing physically wrong with you. The high levels of anxiety will still be there. That, coupled with the fact that you have just had your first anxiety attack, will more than likely make you more anxious than before, and increase your chances of having another attack.
Beginnings of Panic Disorder
Panic Attacks may be a symptom of Panic Disorder
By the time you have had a few attacks, you may understandably be afraid that you might have another. When you are not actually experiencing an attack, your mind is full of fear about the possibility of having another.
You might try to cope at this point, by avoiding the things that you believe may be the cause of your attacks. Pretty soon, your life may be consumed with either experiencing an attack, or fear of having one, or you may be limited in what you can and cannot do, and where you can and cannot go.
You may not even get a break from this in the safety of your own bed, as many people experience attacks in their sleep. These are known as nocturnal panic attacks. Now when you go to bed at night, your heart is pounding and you are terrified of sleeping, as waking up in a panic is complete terror. If you wake up having an attack, you are terrified, your body is operating at the rate that should be expected if you were out having a run. You jump out of bed immediately, experiencing all the symptoms already mentioned, only now it is the middle of the night when everyone else is sleeping.
Panic Attacks, if left untreated, can start to dominate every aspect of your life, and turn into Panic Disorder.
Panic Disorder is an anxiety disorder. If you have been told that you have Panic Disorder, it is because that you are having repeated anxiety attacks and when not having an attack, live in fear of the next one. You will also notice that you are now doing things differently since your first attack. For example, in order to cope, you might have started to avoid things, you might carry water with you everywhere, in case your mouth or throat becomes dry (as having a dry mouth is a symptom of panic.) You might need people to come with you when you go out in case something happens to you.
Living with Panic Disorder
Panic Disorder can easily consume your life. Your physical health may become affected as not only are you physically and emotionally exhausted, but you cannot rely on being able to sleep, as your sleep may well be affected. It can be difficult to perform to the best of your ability in work or school, as you have to contend with all the physical symptoms you are now regularly facing on a day to day basis. You may also feel like you are losing control and going crazy, and that other people can see it happening to you. Overtime you may not go out as much as normal, or find it difficult to be alone, this in turn can start to affect your mood. If you have been coping by avoiding situations that are uncomfortable for you, you may be at risk of developing Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia.
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