Panic or anxiety attacks can sneak up on us when we are least expecting them. They, come unannounced and impose themselves in our lives, whether we are alone or in public, leaving us breathless and scared. More often than not, they will also leave us in the dark about the reasons they came into our lives in the first place.
When we are suffering from a panic attack, we are under the impression that we are suffocating, even though in reality, all our bodily functions seem to be normal. This means that the cause of panic attacks is not physiological, but rather psychological.
That is exactly what happened with two of my clients Marc* and Annie*, who were also suffering from anxiety attacks due to their highly stressful jobs, a situation I am very familiar with myself, since I was also a victim of anxiety attacks, once.
Therefore, I know firsthand, as well as from the coaching experiences with my clients and the people around me, that many reasons contribute to panic attacks, such as an overload of work and an overall feeling of discomfort.
What do we mean by panic attacks?
Panic attacks are sudden, intense, and usually give us the impression that an impending catastrophe is lurking just around the corner, scaring us out of our common senses.
They are often accompanied by several physical and psychological symptoms such as nausea, vertigo, and the feeling of being in danger: “A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.”
Panic attacks can happen only once or can be repetitive. In this case, we are talking about a panic disorder. Its frequency and intensity are largely dependent on our ability to rapidly resolve its underlying causes: “ Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It causes panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of terror when there is no real danger. You may feel as if you are losing control. You may also have physical symptoms such as a fast heartbeat and chest or stomach pains.”
If left unchecked, panic disorder can cause photophobia or the fear of being afraid and anticipating the sensations and the symptoms that are felt while suffering from an anxiety attack.
What causes panic attacks?
Many factors cause sudden panic attacks such as genetics, as well as exterior causes such as an overload of work, and stress: “The brain and nervous system play key roles in how you perceive and handle fear and anxiety. Your risk of having panic attacks increases if you have:
Family history: Anxiety disorders, including panic disorders, often run in families. Experts aren’t sure why.
Panic attacks that are job-related often happen because of an excess of work followed by a prolonged period of stress. In that case, the overworked employee realizes the little control they have over their work situation and might start to panic. This constant stress will, in turn, induce panic attacks, as was the case with Marc.
Marc and I started our coaching sessions last year, after his visit to the doctor who assured him that he was physically fine. At the time, he was suffering from multiple symptoms and was living in constant fear of having sudden panic attacks, especially in the workplace. He did not want to jeopardize his work nor did he want to cause any trouble.
Annie on the other hand, suffered from one intense anxiety attack while she was in a meeting with her subordinate who immediately gave her 15 days off. She promptly advised her to start working on herself, so we began our sessions on the same day.
What are the symptoms of panic attacks?
Marc was suffering from recurrent episodes of panic attacks while Annie only had one. And although their situations were different, their symptoms were identical.
Our work together revolved around understanding their symptoms first and foremost, as well as recognizing the first signals of a panic attack. My goal was to give them all the necessary information they needed to deal with what they were experiencing.
There are many symptoms to panic attacks and here are a few ones:
A suffocating sensation
A sharp pain in the chest area
For a more complete list, please check out the following link.
How to eradicate panic attacks from your life?
Breathe: the first thing to do when you are suffering from panic attacks is to breathe calmly. When we are in this situation, our body believes that we are in danger. Breathing slowly and intentionally will help you feel in control of our situation and realize that you are not in actual danger.
Understand what is happening: when suffering from a panic attack it is difficult to think rationally but it is necessary if we want it to pass quickly. Understanding that you are suffering from a panic attack and not on the verge of dying can help you reframe your thoughts and appease your troubled minds.
Schedule an appointment with your Doctor: in order to be on the safe side, and make sure you don’t have any physical ailments that are causing you to feel these sensations.