Dr. Carolyn Chambers Clark, Award-Winning Author and Wellness Nurse Practitioner

Panic Attacks

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Have you had a panic attack and wondered what it was?


It's one of the most scary things there is. After working with clients for over 30 years with their panic attacks, I decided to write an article about it to help you.


 What is a panic attack?


A panic attack is one of the most uncomfortable experiences a human being can have. Panic attacks seem to come out of the blue and they can include heart palpitations, tightening in the chest or shortness of breath (which is why they are sometimes confused with heart attacks), choking sensations (which is why you may think you're going to suffocate) dizziness (which is why you may fear you're going to pass out), faintness, sweating, trembling, shaking, and/or tingling in the hands and feet. These physiological effects are often accompanied by feelings of unreality, an intense desire to run away, and fears of going crazy, dying or fear of doing something uncontrollable.


Agoraphobia is fear of panic attacks, of going out and being unable to escape if you have a sudden panic attack.


What causes the reactions of a panic attack?


*Although these fears are real at the time, they are primarily the result of adrenaline and other physiological responses that are useful to you when you are really under threat, but are frightening when your mind tricks you into thinking you are.


*Because you start breathing more quickly in the upper portion of your chest, your brain gets less oxygen. As a result, you can have feelings of unreality and disorientation. These reactions can make you think you're going crazy, but you're not. No one goes crazy in a sudden or spontaneous way, mental illness develops slowly over time. This kind of breathing can also bring on lightheadedness and fear you'll lose your balance of faint; just breathe more deeply in the lower part of your abdomen and this feeling will pass.


*Adrenaline dilates the blood vessels in your legs that can make them feel like jelly and you start to tremble and fear you might fall. These sensations will pass if you don't fight them.


* The tension you feel can affect your inner ear and make you feel dizzy or that things around you are spinning; this is not dangerous and will pass.


* Stress and tension can cause the muscles in your neck and chest to tighten and reduce your ability to breathe. You won't suffocate. Your brain has a built-in reflex that will eventually force you to breathe.


* A  panic attack cannot cause you to have a heart attack even though your heart may beat very fast. A healthy heart is built to beat as many as 200 times a minute for weeks and still keep going. There is a big difference between a racing heart and a heart attack.


* You won't lose control of yourself. If anything, you'll be highly focused on one goal, escaping. So, you may try to run away or escape, but losing total control of yourself is a myth, not a reality.


Because of their intensity, they can leave you feeling helpless, terrified and anticipating another attack. While some people have several panic attacks a week, others have one and never have one again or have one every few years.


What can you do to cope with panic attacks so they no longer have the power to frighten you?


* Engage in the regular practice of deep relaxation. This doesn't mean sitting in a chair and watching TV. A specific technique is involved---but once you learn it, you can use it forever and it becomes easy to do in seconds.


* Exercise every day. Specific kinds of exercise can reduce stress responses such as panic attacks.


* Eliminate stimulants. Stop using caffeine, chocolate, sugar, nicotine, and all stimulant drugs.


* Learn to acknowledge and express your feelings, especially anger and sadness; when you deny these feelings, they can come back to haunt you in the form of panic attacks.


* Learn to challenge your negative thinking patterns 


If you make these 5 lifestyle changes, over time your problem with panic attacks will diminish or vanish entirely. For more specifics on how to end panic attacks forever, check out LIVING WELL WITH ANXIETY: WHAT YOUR DOCTOR DOESN'T TELL YOU THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.

Copyright 2006 www.carolynchambersclark.com

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