A panic attack episode
is a horrible and terrifying experience, but it is not in any sense dangerous. Panic disorder is actually an entirely natural bodily reaction that is occurring OUT OF CONTEXT.
For example, when we feel our survival is somehow threatened, all mammals have an instinctual response to either fight or flee. This response produces a sudden surge of adrenaline, accompanied by strong feelings of anxiety and panic, and a very intense urge to flee or escape the situation or circumstance.
It is interesting that the intensity of the reaction and the strong urge to flee are things that would ensure your survival if you were truly in danger.....
The flow of adrenaline and the resulting extra blood flow increases your strength and awareness of the danger. This extra "awareness" of the perceived danger may cause all sorts of feelings, such as dizziness, nausea, hyperventilation, heart palpitations, confusion, lack of control, unreality, being dazed, shaking, trembling, and sweaty palms, among others.
During a panic attack, your body goes through the same physical processes as it would if you were in real danger.
The DIFFERENCE, of course, is that although you feel you are in danger, you really ARE NOT. That you undergo panic attacks -- without knowing why -- only makes the situation much more frightening.
Because of these feelings of panic, it's very common to "invent" or attribute danger to the accompanying bodily symptoms. Remember, though, that NO ONE has ever had these things happen to them as a result of a panic attack:
"I'M GOING CRAZY": No one with panic attacks and anxiety has ever gone "crazy". In fact, because you realize that you have panic attacks, this is just another indication that you are not going crazy. People that "go crazy" lose contact with reality. Anxious people are too much in contact with reality. Thus, people with panic and anxiety problems NEVER "go crazy". It simply cannot happen.
"I'M GOING TO PASS OUT": Temporary dizziness leads people with panic to feel that they may pass out. This is not possible because, during panic, your heart beats faster, and your blood pressure rises. As the blood pressure rises, it becomes impossible for you to "pass out". When people faint or "pass out", it's because of a sudden DROP or lowering in blood pressure.
"I'M HAVING A HEART ATTACK": when the heart begins to beat quickly and people experience "palpitations", they sometimes feel a heart attack is occurring. In the first place, the heart can beat quickly and continuously for a long period of time without causing any damage.
Although heart palpitations seem to occur in the left side of the chest, there are many DIFFERENCES between panic attack and a real heart attack. During a real heart attack, the primary symptom is a crushing sensation inside the chest and a pain that is continuous.
During a panic attack, the attention is focused on the quick and rapid beating of the heart itself. ("I can hear my heart beating even in my ears!") People having panic attacks are NOT experiencing heart problems. A real heart attacks produces crushing internal pain that doubles people up and drops them to the floor. They DO NOT hear their heart beating nor do they care. The intense, crushing pain is the only thing they can pay attention to.
"I WILL STOP BREATHING AND SUFFOCATE": Sometimes panic sufferers feel that because they can't catch their breath (and are hyperventilating), they will suffocate. This is impossible because you cannot pass out and suffocate. It feels like you can because the mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your bloodstream is out of proportion.
That is why people feel weak, dizzy, lightheaded, and faint. Suffocation is not a possibility during a panic attack. In a few moments, as the body gradually calms down, breathing returns to normal, and the other symptoms gradually go away.
"I'M LOSING CONTROL": Experiencing many anxiety symptoms all at once can cause a person to feel that they are "losing control" of themselves. Sometimes the fear is of acting nervous and foolish in public where others will be able to notice. Sometimes the fear is of being rushed to the hospital in an emergency vehicle.
For other people, it is the fear that losing all control proves they are crazy and may have to be institutionalized. Actually, the fact that you think you could "lose control" guarantees that this is not really possible. The only people who really "lose control" are people who are not aware of this and are not ever concerned or bothered by "losing control".
Although the thoughts and feelings of anxiety and panic are all too real, the brain is being tricked into thinking that you are somehow in danger -- when actually you are not. Part of effective therapy includes realizing this and slowly changing ingrained thought patterns.
Another part of panic attacks therapy is in actually tapping the emotional side itself -- to quiet and relax the mind so that anxiety and panic will have no choice but to eventually disappear.
Active, cognitive/behavioral therapy has been shown by research to be the most effective therapy in dealing with the anxiety problems.
Usually, there is no reason to rehash the past and analyze it to death. In fact, the more you think and analyze your problems, the worse you can make your condition. (Analysis = paralysis).
Instead, a focus on making the present better so that the future is (almost) anxiety-free is the best and most permanent course of action to take.
Today, panic is being successfully treated in the vast majority of cases. Active cognitive-behavioral therapy plus a strong motivation and persistence on the part of the client are the essential ingredients in overcoming this major anxiety disorder.
Recommended Resource for Social Anxiety: Social Anxiety Secrets Review