Your heart is pounding and you feel as if there is a ten ton boulder sitting on your chest, preventing your lungs from expanding. You feel like you can’t get enough air to breathe. Sweat breaks out all over your body and you feel sick to your stomach. Something is very wrong but you don’t know what it is. You are so frightened and you think you might be dying. You’ve just experienced a panic attack.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is an overwhelming feeling of intense fear in the absence of true danger. They come on suddenly and they usually last about ten minutes. Sometimes they can go on for longer and/or occur one after the other, making it difficult to tell when one attack ends and another begins. After an attack, the sufferer usually feels uneasy and apprehensive for hours.
Between three to six million Americans suffer from panic attacks regularly. That’s about 1.7 percent of the U.S. population. They are twice as common in women as in men and the lifetime risk for developing panic disorder for both men and women is 1.6%.
In the United States, a full third of the total mental health cost of $148 billion is devoted to treating panic disorder. That’s an excess of $42 billion dollars a year. Among the reasons for this is that panic sufferers are three to five times more likely to become hospitalized for mental health issues than people without panic disorder.
Many panic attack symptoms can mimic the symptoms of physical conditions, some quite serious, making panic disorder difficult to diagnose. Because of this, the diagnosis involves ruling out physical causes first. In fact, people with panic attacks may have to visit the doctor and/or be seen in the ER multiple times before a diagnosis is made.
Panic attack symptoms can include heart palpitations, fast heartbeat, sweating, trembling or shaking, feeling short of breath, feeling smothered or being choked, nausea or abdominal problems, chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling faint, feeling like everything is unreal, feeling detached, like you’re looking at yourself from outside your body, fear of loss of control or insanity, fear of death, numbness or tingling, chills or hot flashes.
To date, the exact causes of panic attacks remain unknown. There have been studies that have given rise to a number of theories about why they happen and how they occur, but no one really knows for sure. It is now thought that panic disorder is the result of a combination of biology, genetics, environment, and social components.
My experience with helping people get rid of panic attacks
As a Hypnotherapist who has seen many people suffering from anxiety based panic attacks, I have found that high stress triggers such as a shocking or jarring experience, as well as repetitive negative behavioral conditioning, can bring on panic attacks. It is not uncommon for a person to call me explaining that their panic attacks were so intense that they wholeheartedly thought they were dying, so they went to their doctor who said it was just “stress.” Often than not, the person is then given a prescription and told that they need to relax. To most people it seems almost unbelievable that their mental state could possibly cause such a visceral experience. We often think of the mind and body as separate entities when in really they are interconnected.
The experience of suffering from panic attacks can be so bad that it halts the person’s ability to function on a daily basis. Instead they feel constantly stressed as their minds are already anticipating future attacks. They may even forgo great career opportunities or opportunities to have fun because they feel unsure of what might happen. In some cases, that feeling can lead to feelings of insecurity as the person begins to personalize the situation. They begin to doubt themselves.
The good thing is that it is possible to end panic attacks through hypnotherapy. Many of my clients have gone from feeling completely out of control to feeling more in control than ever. By retraining the mind to think and experience things differently, you are able to function from a different place, a place where the mind and body are calm and you feel more whole and complete.