Do you recognize panic attack symptoms and indicators? People experience a variety of signs when an attack hits. Find out what they are so that that you can help yourself or others.
For a time in my thirties, panic attacks were a regular part of my life. They’re horrible!
For most of us, they can be the most disturbing and scariest events in our lives. They can leave you confused, worried about your sanity, and of course fearing another panic attack!
And they make you feel very, very alone.
Now my panic attacks were aggravated because of an undiagnosed brain tumour, so they were accompanied by visual and auditory hallucinations and episodes of fugue. Those aren’t common for many people who have panic attacks.
But here’s the surprising thing – millions of people around the world experience panic attack symptoms. You’re not going crazy, you’re certainly not alone, and they are very treatable.
What Are Common Panic Attack Symptoms?
Panic disorder is of course more than simply an overwhelming feeling of intense fear. You might be having a panic attack if you:
- Experience your heart suddenly pounding for no apparent reason.
There are definite physical symptoms! People who suffer a panic attack often say they feel as if their heart rate is dangerously elevated and their heart is out of control. They also often describe it as chest pain.
- Experience difficulty breathing.
When you’re having a panic attack it may feel as if someone is sitting on your chest. You cannot take a deep breath.
- Begin sweating.
People who suffer from panic attacks often say they break out in a cold sweat. They may feel chills or quite warm as well. Panic attack symptoms are not always what the general public would expect.
- Feel stomach upset
This isn’t always a sign or symptom however it’s common enough to make note of. If you suddenly feel sick to your stomach combined with the other symptoms we’ve mentioned then you may be suffering from a panic attack.
You may feel nauseated or simply have an upset stomach, or you may suddenly feel like you’re going to soil your pants.
One of my best friends has pointed out that an internal feeling that you must get away is often disguised as nausea or an immediate need to urinate or defecate. Your brain knows that no one will get in your way on the way to the bathroom!
- Feel dizzy.
Dizziness or lightheadedness is a very common sign of a panic attack.
- Depersonalization and/or derealization
This take more explaining than the others.
Depersonalization is feeling as if you’re disconnected from your body. You feel extremely out of control.
Derealization is when it feels as if reality has been suspended. You feel as if you’re standing in a dream. The walls or the space around you may become wavy or unfocused. The lighting may feel as if it has changed. Sound may take on a distorted effect.
Depersonalization and derealization are both extremely common symptoms of a panic attack. If it happens to you, you can be fairly sure you’re experiencing an anxiety or panic attack.
For me, the sense of derealization, along with difficulty breathing and overwhelming feeling that I had to escape meant that I would run blindly and hide in the strangest places. Once I found myself deep in a closet in my church’s basement, covered by a pile of choir robes!
Now it’s important to note that many of these signs and symptoms for panic attacks are also signs and symptoms of other medical conditions and problems.
The most apparent might be a heart attack!
In fact, there’s a growing realization in the medical field that it’s extremely hard to tell the difference – in women – between a heart attack and anxiety or heartburn!
Heart attack victims feel shortness of breath, a pounding heart, rapid heart rate, or chest pain and they may have an upset stomach, sweating and dizziness. These all feel very similar to anxiety symptoms.
It’s very important for you to get checked out by a doctor any time you’ve experienced these.
Anxiety and panic disorders are treatable when properly diagnosed. And a diagnosis puts you back in control.
Panic attacks typically don’t come with telltale signs or triggers that they’re going to occur. One minute you’re fine, and the next, your flight or fight mode goes into overdrive.
But for people with a panic disorder, it’s important to realize that – as with most medical conditions – there’s help. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one option available for treating panic disorder. You can understand what your brain is doing, and take steps to reduce panic, anxiety, and stress.