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Don't Panic

HAVE you experienced a sudden overwhelming fear, or an intense feeling of anxiety without any real threat or danger? If you have, then you may be suffering from panic attack.

Millions of people including physically and mentally healthy people have experienced this terrifying feeling of losing control, going insane or dying, gripped by fear and panic. Whether it is a one time event or a recurring episode, sufferers can be profoundly affected by it.

Panic attacks can be a frightening experience. In the primitive sense, they are a downward spiral of anxiety which leaves the victim and those around bewildered and unable to help.

On the other hand you can recognise and treat these attacks instead of continuing to be a victim of it.

The first step is to recognise an attack so you can manage and treat them. Identifying the symptoms can lessen the chance of this attack recurring.

Since panic attacks are likely to occur in the same situation and circumstances, knowing what to look for and what to do can be helpful in managing and preventing future attacks.

For most people, relaxation techniques, such as taking deep, slow breaths, have been beneficial to manage this temporary moments of anxiety.

Those prone to panic attacks should avoid stimulants such as nicotine and coffee. The caffeine in coffee and nicotine in cigarettes can raise your heart rate. By avoiding coffee, tea, soda, and other products high in caffeine you may be able to avoid triggering a panic attack.

Stress can also raise your anxiety level which leads to an attack. A healthy way to de-stress and lower your anxiety level is through exercise which releases endorphins into your bloodstream, which gives you a natural "high" to help reduce stress and decrease anxiety.

It is also important to learn how to handle negative thoughts as our thoughts often become our actions.

There are many types of medication available for panic attacks, however prescription medication is commonly overused and should be taken only as the last resort. Some work as long as the person is on medication, and has side effects.

As soon as their prescription is done, the panic attacks may return and so do the symptoms.

By identifying the circumstances that lead to panic attacks and learning how to respond to those situations appropriately, panic attacks can be lessened or eliminated over time. As with most things, treating, managing and overcoming your anxiety takes time.


Put yourself in the following situation. You're speeding along a highway when suddenly a small animal crosses in front of you. You pull the steering wheel hard trying to avoid the animal. The car swerves and spins off into the emergency lane and you skid to a stop. Somehow you've managed to avoid a potentially fatal accident - for both you and the animal.

You're shaking, your heart is racing, and you've broken out into a quick and cold sweat. But you're alive! This would be the normal reaction for most people in a similar situation.

Now imagine this. You're at a restaurant having a quiet dinner when suddenly, for no apparent reason, you experience the same uneasy feelings. You begin shaking, your heart starts racing, and you break out into a cold sweat. You even feel like you might be having a heart attack. You're rushed to the hospital and the doctors can find nothing immediately wrong with you. What has happened?

Quite possibly you may have experienced a "panic attack" - and a few of the typical symptoms usually associated with Panic Disorder.

Panic Disorder is characterised by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.

A panic attack seems to come out of nowhere - at times and in places where there is nothing to fear. When experiencing the effects of the attack, you may think you're having a heart attack, dying, or even going crazy. But in reality, there is nothing wrong with your heart, or your sanity. You're simply one of the millions who suffer from this frightening and debilitating disorder.


SOME Panic Disorder sufferers also have "agoraphobia." Agoraphobia is an anxiety, or a fear, of being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult (or embarrassing) or in which help may not be available in the event of having a Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms (for example, fear of having a sudden attack of dizziness or a sudden attack of diarrhoea). Some people with agoraphobia may fear being outside the home alone; being in a crowd or standing in a line; being on a bridge; or travelling in a bus, train, or car.

Situations like these may be avoided or else they're dreaded, and then endured. Typically this means staying away from places or circumstances where previous experiences have happened. Obviously, having such a "fear of the fear" can make normal everyday life impossible.


AT one time, Panic Disorder was believed to have stemmed from "psychological problems." However, researchers now believe that Panic Disorder is a real and treatable medical illness caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. It is a disorder that can also sometimes be accompanied by depression.

Contrary to an older, common belief, Panic Disorder is not due to a "character flaw" or "character weakness." Panic Disorder is a real medical illness that is treatable.

Biologically, it appears that emotional memories stored in specific parts of the brain may play a role in disorders involving very distinct fears, like phobias, while other parts may be involved in other forms of anxiety.

Some researchers suggest that Panic Disorder may be caused by an imbalance of specific chemicals in the brain. Three of these chemicals are called norepinephrine, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), and serotonin. It is believed that changes in the levels of these chemicals play a role in anxiety disorder.

Panic Disorder appears to run in families and is more common in women than in men. Genetic factors or changes in body chemistry, combined with stress, may also play an important role. Certain illnesses, drugs, and certain social situations - or even substances like caffeine - may also contribute to triggering attacks.



* Recognise you are having a panic attack. Tell yourself everything will be OK.

* Prepare yourself for what will happen, so when it does, you will comprehend what is going on.

* The symptoms include shortness of breath. Try to breathe deeply and regulate your breathing as this will help you to control the panic attack.

* Sit down, as standing can be dangerous if you feel dizzy and feel like falling or collapsing.

* Grip or hold onto something solid, to increase your stability.

* Get help from a friend, or family members. Simply ask them to be around.

* Try to distract yourself. Calm, soothing thoughts can distract you from a panic situation.

* After an attack subsides, relax for a few minutes. Drink some water and take a break If the situation persists, get professional help. 

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