￼Your heart is pounding. You can’t catch your breath. You feel consumed by fear and may even think you’re dying — even though you’re really in no danger.
This is what it feels like to have a panic attack. Recently I experienced a panic attack and it was the scariest thing I have “felt. My heart was racing and a few times I thought that I was gonna faint in the store I was walking around calmly a few moments before all the madness started. I really thought that I’m having a heart attack even though I do know that I have no cardiac problems what so ever and I’m a very active person.
These episodes of extreme fear often happen without warning. In my case happened out of the blue and even I tried to focus on my breathing and control my body it was impossible.
My heart was beating so fast, my chest was so tight and my breathing was so short that I basically felt that I was racing up on a mountain where the air is way too rarefied. You may have one or more panic attacks during your life, or you may never have one. So what happens inside your body and brain during a panic attack?
What You Feel
A panic attack means you have four or more of these symptoms:
- Feel like you’re losing control or going crazy
- Pounding heart
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Chills or hot flashes
- An out-of-body sensation
- Like you’re choking
- A fear that you’re dying
- Tingling or numb hands, arms, feet, or legs
Many people mistake a panic attack for a medical emergency, like a heart attack. I also thought I’m having a heart attack and called the ambulance.
However by the time paramedics came the episode was over. The EKG was normal and O2 saturation was 99%, which clearly showed I was hyperventilated. The symptoms can seem similar, but panic attacks aren’t life-threatening.
They usually pass in several minutes, but they can sometimes linger for hours. Afterward, you might feel drained and exhausted. Lasted around 25 minutes for me and after that I started too feel cold and freezing.
What Happens Inside Your Body
Your body’s “fight or flight” response is behind these intense physical symptoms. Normally when you encounter a threat — whether it’s a grizzly bear or a swerving car — your nervous system springs into action. The hormone adrenaline floods into your bloodstream, putting your body on high alert. Your heartbeat quickens, which sends more blood to your muscles.
Your breathing becomes fast and shallow, so you can take in more oxygen. Your blood sugar spikes. Your senses get sharper.
All of these changes — which happen in an instant — give you the energy you need to confront a dangerous situation or get out of harm’s way quickly.
With random panic attacks, your body goes on alert for no reason. Researchers don’t know exactly what triggers them. But the physical effects are real: During a panic attack, the adrenaline levels in the body can spike by 2 1/2 times or more.
Panic attacks may not come as unexpectedly as they seem. The physical changes may start about an hour before an attack. In one study, people with panic disorder wore devices that tracked their heart activity, sweating, and breathing. The results showed lower-than-normal levels of carbon dioxide, a sign of rapid, deep breathing that can leave you breathless, as early as about 45 minutes before the panic attack.
What Happens in Your Brain
Scientists are still studying how panic attacks affect the brain. It’s possible that the parts of the brain that are tied to fear become more active during an episode. One recent study found that people with panic disorder had lots of activity in a part of their brains tied to the “fight or flight” response.
Other studies have found possible links between panic disorder and the chemicals in your brain. The condition may also be linked to an imbalance in serotonin levels, which can affect your moods.
How long does it take to feel normal after a panic attack?
Drained, exhausted, emotional and always shivering uncontrollably, after a panic attack it feels as though my body has gone into shock; shut down, given up on me until I can have a good sleep and try another day. Still, I am in my second day after PA and still don’t feel like before.
Firstly, keep warm (although if you’re hot and bothered, fresh air will help too). Hyperventilating can make your blood flow less effective and if you’re anything like me, you’ll feel freezing after the attack is finished – and the shakes will only make you feel worse.
Much of anxiety is due to a feeling of no control; which is why it’s helpful to remember that our breathing is a bodily function that we can take back control of if it’s out of whack. Focus on your breathing, such as inhaling, holding for a count of five, and then exhaling.
Try to think positive and realize that it was just an episode, you’ll be prepared next time when things will start again. You know what is this, you can control it!
If you experienced a panic attack and you have any advice about aftermath recovery please let me know.