Karen Fratti
February 27, 2017 4:52 pm
Andrei Porfireanu/Unsplash

For anyone who deals with anxiety, even thinking about a panic attack can be dangerous territory. But knowing what happens to your body when you have a panic attack can also help you get through them. Remembering to breathe and reminding yourself that there’s an actual, scientific, biological reason you are feeling the way you do is one good way to talk yourself down.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, there are 40 million in the United States that manage all kinds of anxiety disorders every day.

Panic disorder, or being prone to anxiety attacks, affects about 5 million of them. Panic attacks can be scary and sometimes happen when you’re least expecting it — even when you’re sleeping, which is just as terrifying as it is totally unfair.

Suffering from panic attacks can make a person feel totally isolated and out of place, but actually, they’re the most common symptom of anxiety disorders. Very severe panic attacks can feel like you’re literally having a heart attack and in those cases — but you’re not. And you’re not going crazy, either, which is why you should tell your friends and family about them as well as a mental health counselor or your doctor. There are tons of ways to treat anxiety — from meditation to medicine. The funny thing about anxiety is that as soon as you acknowledge it, it gets so much easier to live with. OK, it’s never easy, but it’s manageable.

These are some of the most common symptoms of a panic attack.

It’s all adrenaline.

People who suffer from panic disorders are merely the victims of their brain releasing way too much adrenaline than it needs. Whatever your triggers are, your body is literally going into “fight or flight” mode, but since their is (usually) no actual threat, the overflow of adrenaline isn’t helpful. It’s the adrenaline that leads to the shortness of breath, sweating, and dizzy feelings you might experience. This is when you need to be mindful about your breathing.

You need to GET OUT.

Because of all this adrenaline, you might feel a strong need to get the heck out of where ever you are feel safe. It’s up to you, obviously, but listen to yourself. If you’re on the subway, get out at the next stop and find a bench to chill out. If you’re at work and you can, tell someone and leave. Don’t worry about people thinking that you look like a loon. You’re not, you’re just having a physical and psychological reaction to something that is actually out of your control. So do whatever you can to be the boss.

You get the shakes and tingles.

One of the scarier symptoms of an anxiety attack is when you start to get the shakes or a tingling sensation in your hands. If you experience the tingles a lot, you should tell your doctor because it can be related to anxiety or other health issues. But the tingles are directly related to that increase in adrenaline, which leads to quicker and shorter breaths, and then causes hyperventilation. That tingling or numb feeling you’re feeling is just because you’re breathing too quickly. You’re not dying.

You feel totally detached.

No, you are not going crazy. Many people who suffer from full-blown attacks have a feeling that they’re sort of breaking away from wherever they are. Voices can become muted, or you feel like you’re falling off of your chair, even though you’re just fine. This again is just your brain firing off way too many messages to handle. Sit down and talk to yourself if you have to and remember that most panic attacks last for about ten minutes and never more than an hour. This will pass.

You’re exhausted.

Once your panic attack is over, you feel totally worn out and beat. Think about it: your brain basically just went on overdrive and asked your entire body to do way too much at one time. You basically ran five miles in 15 minutes. If you can, be super nice to yourself, take a good shower, and rest up.

Panic attacks are real, but you can also overcome them, or at least know what tricks work for you when they strike. If you aren’t already talking to a professional about them, though, you should probably start. Having someone walk you through them, and get to the bottom of what triggers them, is the most important step.

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