At some point in life many of us have had feelings of panic.
Yes, even if you are generally a calm and resilient person, some circumstances can still be overwhelming and even cause a panic attack.
This does not necessarily mean you have Panic Disorder, however feeling overwhelmed and panicked are also serious reactions to life events and are worthy of attention.
Panic is an intense fear response, and may occur when there is no danger or reason to fear. When we experience intense fear and panic, our body goes through a series of changes that help prepare us to fight, run, or defend ourselves. This is a functional response when there is a reason to be afraid, however these symptoms may also occur when there is no immediate danger.
Panic can even occur in our sleep and may be even more frightening at this time. as it is so unexpected.
Many people believe that they may faint whilst having a panic attack, however the body has a different internal mechanism when we are going to faint. You may also believe you are going to die, however there is also no physical reason why that would happen in an otherwise healthy person. When we panic, our body sensations can trick us into believing we are ill, “crazy”, or somehow out of control.
Panic Attack Signs & Symptoms
- Skipping, racing or pounding heart
- Sweating, trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Choking sensations, chest pain, pressure or discomfort
- Nausea, stomach problems or sudden diarrhoea
- Dizziness, light headedness, feeling faint
- Tingling or numbness in parts of your body
- Hot flushes or chills
- Feeling somehow “unreal” or “detached” from the self
- Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
- Fear of dying
What Happens if You Avoid Treatment for Panic
Panic attacks can occur along with anxiety, depression, substance use, and also with some medical conditions including cardiac, respiratory, gastrointestinal and some inner ear problems/vertigo. Panic may lead to more complex issues, and therapy can be tailored to accommodate your needs and prevent further problems from developing.
How you cope socially and in your job may also be affected, thus if these symptoms are persistent and recurring it may be worthwhile talking to a psychologist to find out how to manage these difficulties.
If you have specific health problems and also experience panic, you should consult your doctor to rule out other health issues prior to making an appointment with a psychologist. Your doctor will do a thorough history, examination and appropriate testing before providing a referral to a mental health practitioner.
Treatment for Panic Attacks
After correct diagnosis by a psychologist or psychiatrist, treatment for panic can be tailored to your needs. Interventions are based on best available evidence integrated with individual client characteristics, culture and preferences.
Author: Mia Olsson, BA Psych (Hons), Dip Nurs, AMAPS.
Registered Psychologist Mia Olsson has had a broad interdisciplinary role in the health industry for over thirty years, including hospital-based nurse training, and an Honours Degree majoring in Psychology completed in 1990. She has a particular interest in assisting clients with anxiety – such as panic attacks – and depressive disorders, acute and chronic complex trauma, and health related issues.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.
- American Psychological Association. (2005). Policy statement on evidence-based practice in psychology. 2005 Presidential task force on Evidence-Based Practice.
- Australian Psychological Society. (2010). Evidence-based Psychological Interventions in the Treatment of Mental Disorders (3rd ed.).
The information on this topic page is not a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional.