Return Of The Panic!

by toddkelley on May 7, 2012

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Life’s been a little rough lately. Normally things seem to roll off me and I deal with problems and they come. But this year seems to have been different. With work, my mother’s health, and everything else in the home-life, it’s been getting to me a lot more than usual. Throughout certain parts of my life, i’ve had these unusual waves of panic and anxiety attacks. They don’t always come to me when I’m stress-out, and it doesn’t always happen at the severe times. They seem to have a mind of their own.

I just had one here at work. Hit me in the middle of a business call. So i’m on the phone with someone out in the field and I get hit with this incredible feeling of danger. It’s hard to describe. But it feels like you know IN YOUR HEART that you’re in danger where you are. Your mind KNOWS it’s just a panic attack, but your body is screaming for you to get to safety. So it felt crazy trying to keep my cool while i’m sweating up a storm and almost shaking because of this incredible wave of fear washing over me for no reason.

I knew it would pass, and it did after a few moments. After a few deep breathes my heart rate lowered and I was almost back to normal. I just hate the fact that this happens. I try my damnedest to stay away from any medication (already taking blood pressure meds), so i’ve learned how to just deal with it.

Crazy-ass times.

Panic attacks are periods of intense fear or apprehension that are of sudden onset[1] and of relatively brief duration. Panic attacks usually begin abruptly, reach a peak within 10 minutes, and subside over the next several hours. Often, those afflicted will experience significant anticipatory anxiety and limited symptom attacksin between attacks, in situations where attacks have previously occurred. The effects of a panic attack vary. Some, notably first-time sufferers, may call for emergency services. Many who experience a panic attack, mostly for the first time, fear they are having a heart attack or a nervous breakdown.[2] Experiencing a panic attack has been said to be one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of a person’s life and may take days to initially recover from.[3] Repeated panic attacks are considered a symptom of panic disorder.[4] Screening tools like Panic Disorder Severity Scale can be used to detect possible cases of disorder, and suggest the need for a formal diagnostic assessment.[5][6]

Sufferers of panic attacks often report a fear or sense of dying, “going crazy,” or experiencing a heart attack or “flashing vision,” feeling faint or nauseated, a numb sensation throughout the body, heavy breathing (and almost always, hyperventilation), or losing control of themselves. Some people also suffer from tunnel vision, mostly due to blood flow leaving the head to more critical parts of the body in defense. These feelings may provoke a strong urge to escape or flee the place where the attack began (a consequence of the sympathetic “fight-or-flight response“) in which the hormone which causes this response is released in significant amounts. This response floods the body with hormones, particularly epinephrine (adrenaline), that aid it in defending against harm.[3]

A panic attack is a response of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The most common symptoms may include tremblingdyspnea (shortness of breath), heart palpitationschest pain (or chest tightness), hot flashes, cold flashes, burning sensations (particularly in the facial or neck area), sweatingnauseadizziness (or slight vertigo), light-headednesshyperventilationparesthesias (tingling sensations), sensations of choking or smothering, difficulty moving and derealization. These physical symptoms are interpreted with alarm in people prone to panic attacks. This results in increased anxiety, and forms a positive feedback loop.[7]

Often, the onset of shortness of breath and chest pain are the predominant symptoms; the sufferer incorrectly appraises this as a sign or symptom of a heart attack. This can result in the person experiencing a panic attack seeking treatment in an emergency room. However, since chest pain and shortness of breath are indeed hallmark symptoms of cardiovascular illnesses, including unstable angina and myocardial infarction (heart attack), especially in a person whose mental health status and heart health status are not known, attributing these pains to simple anxiety and not (also) a physical condition is a diagnosis of exclusion (other conditions must be ruled out first) until an electrocardiogram and a mental health assessment have been carried out.

Panic attacks are distinguished from other forms of anxiety by their intensity and their sudden, episodic nature.[3] They are often experienced in conjunction with anxiety disorders and other psychologicalconditions, although panic attacks are not usually indicative of a mental disorder.