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Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder where you have sudden unexpected attacks of panic and fear. Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety at certain times, it’s a natural response to stressful or dangerous situations but someone with a panic disorder may experience panic attacks at any time and sometimes for no apparent reason
The word ‘panic’ means intense anxiety or intense fear, that horrible feeling of being on edge, out of control even thinking death is near. It comes about when the stress response is activated. Panic attacks are a type of fear response, an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to perceived danger. The so-called fight/flight response kicks in, one of our most primitive basic responses to danger/threat. Stay and fight or run away. Sometimes, panic can occur out of nowhere; you might feel an extreme sense of fear even though there might be nothing immediately obvious causing it. Living through a global pandemic could be the cause - many of us are experiencing a constant anxiety and feeling of uncertainty which could trigger a panic attack.
Symptoms of panic attacks
So how do you know you are having a panic attack? There are many symptoms and they vary from person to person. They can include:
Most panic attacks last between five and twenty minutes and the frequency of attacks varies. Some people have attacks once or twice a month while others have them several times each week.
As these symptoms can also be indicative of other conditions , consider consulting your GP to rule out other conditions which may be causing them. Talking therapies and medicine are the main treatments for panic disorder and your treatment will depend on your symptoms and preferences.
As one lawyer told us “I had a panic attack on the tube in London. I just started feeling like I was going to die. I managed to get myself off the train, sat down, was very sick and then recovered.”
Another said “I was at work and was just suddenly overwhelmed by anxiety and started hyperventilating. An older colleague saw what was happening and got me breathing into a brown paper bag which helped me to recover”.
What you can do during a panic attack
If you do find yourself in an at-risk situation, let your friends or colleagues know that this might happen and ask for their help, even if they just speak to you while you are experiencing the attack. Having someone with you for reassurance can help you calm down.
Preventing further attacks
It may help to consider:
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition
T: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday , 9.30am-5.30pm)
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems
T: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Charity offering support for people who have panic panic attacks and obsessive compulsory disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome phobia or OCD.
T: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm) Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
T: 116 123 (free 24 hour helpline)
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