For some people, stress can manifest in forms such as insomnia, forgetfulness, or even trouble concentrating. But in some cases, stress and anxiety can be so all-consuming as to cause a panic attack. A panic attack is a fast onset of intense fear or discomfort that happens quickly and usually passes just as fast. Panic attacks can present differently in individuals, and some symptoms may be more severe or less pronounced depending on the person. Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with panic attacks.
1. A racing heart
An elevated heart rate is a common symptom associated with stress and anxiety. But in a panic attack, the elevated heart rate can be so intense that a person is incapacitated. Often, the heart rate is so fast that a person might falsely assume a heart attack is occurring. As a result, many people who frequently experience an elevated heart rate without realizing that a panic attack is occurring often go to the emergency room assuming a cardiac event is the root of the issue.
2. Difficulty breathing
No person wants to struggle just to draw a breath. But difficulty breathing is a common panic attack symptom. And even though panic attacks tend to be fairly short, usually between 10-20 minutes in length, the experience of struggling to breathe can be terrifying. Struggling to breathe can make the panic attack feel worse and leave a person scared.
3. Dizziness and lightheadedness
Two other common symptoms associated with panic attacks are dizziness and lightheadedness. Many experts believe the two symptoms are a result of the body’s response to the fight or flight response which is often at play during a panic attack. Fight or flight is a survival response in the body that’s triggered by the release of hormones. But feeling dizzy or lightheaded during a panic attack can be disorienting, leaving a person feeling vulnerable and unsafe in high-stress situations.
When to see a doctor
People who experience panic attacks shouldn’t feel ashamed. According to experts, roughly 6 million Americans suffer from some form of panic disorder, with panic attacks being one of the most common symptoms associated with the condition. But left untreated, people suffering from panic attacks may attempt to avoid the stressors or situations that triggered the attack. Unfortunately, in extreme scenarios, a person can develop agoraphobia, the fear of outdoor spaces, assuming that staying at home is the only way to truly prevent panic attacks. However, reducing quality of life to prevent a panic attack doesn’t help. Instead, working with a medical professional or therapist can help an individual find effective ways to combat panic attacks by identifying triggers and developing proven methods and treatments to minimize the condition’s impact. For more information, speak with a healthcare provider.