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What is a Panic Attack?

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What is a Panic Attack?


What is a panic attack?



A panic attack can be seen to have 3 different areas: 

• You will feel anxiety and fear very intensely, almost as if somebody is holding a gun to you head.  This is often accompanied by a feeling of impending doom.  It is very frightening and can leave a person petrified of having another one.


• The attack happens quite suddenly, and usually the person is either afraid of something externally (your surroundings) or afraid of something internally (such as what if I'm having a heart attack?)

• The panicky feelings come in waves with the initial feeling being extremely frightening.  Other waves of panic then come over the person until they had found a 'safe place'.  The sufferer will almost always have anxiety accompanying the panic.  The panic will often leave the person physically drained and exhausted, and after the attack it can leave lots of unpleasant symptoms which will leave a person feeling uncomfortable.


An initial Panic Attack may have been brought on by a stressful period in one’s life or it may be caused by not looking after your body in the right way.  But a cycle of panic is always accompanied by negative thoughts and a sense of dread.  People often describe how their passion for life has gone and they now fear things that they once enjoyed.

Panic tends to generate feelings that you are going crazy or that you will die.  Another factor is that people feel they will make a fool of themselves in front of other people and tend to avoid busy places or social contact.  There are often numerous thought processes which lead to a person panicking. panic attack

Panic can really take two forms - there is the 'out of the blue' panic attack where people can experience extreme feelings of panic when they are in a relaxed situation, i.e. watching TV.  Then there are scenarios where individuals are thinking about a situation (for example going to the shops) where they imagine all the different circumstances which may cause them to panic.  This is often cause anticipatory anxiety and leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The individual will nearly always have panicky feeling when the event takes place. 

It is worth saying that Panic Attacks are NOT a serious mental illness and they will NOT harm you.  The condition in its simplest form is a habit that somebody has learned and it can be unlearnt.   They are also extremely common with as many as 1 in 4 people have had at least one panic attack in their life.  That’s millions of people who have experienced this although not everyone will develop a panic attack disorder which will restrict their life.

For some they may go through a period in their life for a short time when they experience panic.  It then naturally goes away when they come out of a stressful period or are comforted by the fact that a doctor has told them there is nothing wrong.

Although the situation is steadily changing there is still a stigma with mental health problems and this can lead to suffers keeping the problem to themselves, or delaying in seeking professional help.  Sometimes even their closest friends or relatives are unaware of how ill they feel and often the person will make excuses to avoid being in places where they think they will have a panic attack.  Quite often even if they do confide in someone that person has no idea how scared and anxious they can feel.  Many people totally give up hope and never seek help and confine themselves to their house, this is often referred to as agoraphobia.

Below are some books I have personally read and recommend if you wish to have more in-depth knowledge. They also definitely help in recovery from panic attacks and anxiety.



 Self Help for Your Nerves: Learn to relax and enjoy life again by overcoming stress and fear   One of the first books I read on panic attacks and still one of the best.  I would say if your going to read any book first, read this one.  First published in the 1960's its been updated many times, but some of the best modern-day books still have the same principles running through them.  For first aid for a panic attack this is still the best book out there in my opinion.  For a programme for recovery its not the best as we know far more on what contributes to panic attacks and how to cure them.  For its time its was revoloutionary.  Claire Weeks has sadly passed away but she did recordings and other books as well - Click Here .


Understanding Panic Attacks: and Overcoming Fear   A very thorough and popular book on panic attacks. The book is easy to read and has a lot of common sense techniques. It gives a great deal of information on the back ground leading to panic attacks and goes behind the biology of panic attacks. It focuses on cognitive behavioural therapy tools to help you and a lot of the practical advice I advocate is in this book.


Panic Attacks: What they are, why the happen, and what you can do about them: What They Are, Why They Happen and What You Can Do About Them A book thats over ten years old but the same principles apply to day as they did then.  A good book that covers what to do whilst having a panic attack and an interesting chapter on how to help others with panic attacks.   It has some useful tips and will be helpful for anyone suffering with panic attacks, anixiety and agrophobia.


 Anxiety and Panic Attacks - Their Cause and Cure   An Amercian book and definately one of favourites.  Fun, easy to read and has a stepped program to recovery.  This book taught me some things I did'nt know about panic attacks and is written by someone who has gone through it.  The author has also set up a very useful organisation that helps people recover.  The book was written in 1993 but everything is still completly relevant.


How to Stop Anxiety & Panic Attacks: A Simple Guide to using a specific set of Techniques to Stop Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia, Social Phobia, Fear of Driving or Flying and Stress   Written by a fellow panic attack sufferer who really has a personable approach to panic attacks.  The book really goes in depth in the emotional and psychological factors.  The description of panic disorder was exactly how I felt and you can definately feel empathy with how he describes the struggles involved.  Geert (the author) also has produced good videos on you tube and a helpful program at ilovepanicattacks.  Highly recommended.


Free Yourself From Anxiety: A self-help guide to overcoming anxiety disorders   A book with a very caring attitude for anxious people with some great case studies of people who have various anxiety related issues.  Lots of sensible, useful and practical information you can apply to everyday life.

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