What is a panic attack?

Author: Staff Writer

Do you suffer from panic attacks?

Panic attacks are periods of intense fear or apprehension that can begin quite suddenly and usually last only a short while. Usually, panic attacks begin abruptly, reach a peak within 10 minutes and subside over the next several hours.


Experiencing a panic attack is said to be one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of a person’s life and it may take days to recover. The effects of a panic attack vary depending on the individual and the context with some first-time sufferers even calling for emergency services. Many people who experience a panic attack, mostly for the first time, fear that they are having a heart attack or a ‘nervous breakdown’.


What causes a panic attack?

There are many possible causes and triggers of a panic attack, but case studies have highlighted the three most common:



It is believed that panic attacks can be triggered by certain conditions including the following: hypoglycaemia, inner ear infections, vitamin B deficiency caused by an inadequate diet (or depletion due to parasitic infection from tapeworm), obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.



Panic attacks are thought to be genetic. However, there are many cases where the family has no history of a panic disorder so it cannot be assumed that children will develop the anxiety disorder of their parents.



People who are sensitive to stimulants also tend to be more prone to anxiety and panic attacks. Substances such as nicotine, caffeine, pseudoephedrine, Ritalin and Adderall (ADHD medication), cocaine and amphetamines can often trigger an anxiety attack or increase the severity of anxiety symptoms.


Paul Li, a lecturer of cognitive science at the University of California, Berkeley, explains that before going onstage to give a presentation, your breathing often becomes heavier, your hands tremble and you feel faint. Though frightening, these symptoms are not life-threatening, but they are indicative of a panic attack. Getting into a state of panic is a normal human response to fear and it is definitely a needed function for normal human functioning. The adrenalin that is rushed into your body is responsible for increasing your heart rate, making you perspire and cause heavy breathing, all symptomatic of a panic attack. It is when the danger is not in the same measure as the panic response that it becomes questionable.


The best tips to prevent panic attacks

A lot of doctors recommend the simpler tips to prevent panic attacks, rather than the more exotic or even conventional cures. If these simpler solutions work for you, then there is no need for you to search for alternative treatments to cure your panic attacks or anxiety.


  • Breathe into a paper bag.

  • Try reducing the amount of stress in your life.

  • Do regular exercises.

  • Avoid consuming too much caffeine or alcohol.

  • Learn proper relaxation and breathing techniques.

  • Seek support from your peers.

  • Face up to your emotions.


It is important that you try to master these habits and basic techniques. They will change your life and it is highly likely that you will finally be able to overcome your fears and be free from panic and anxiety attacks without the help of medication or ongoing therapy.




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