Why are panic attacks so hard to cope with?
A Panic Disorder is defined as reoccurring panic attacks that impact negatively on a persons day to day life. But to understand why panic attacks are so frightening and debilitating, it is important to first understand how stress and anxiety impacts your mind and body, so I recommend your read my page on anxiety first.
Panic attacks are simply an exaggerated and acute form of anxiety and stress. While it is important to acknowledge the fear, suffering and stress they can cause if you suffer from them, they will not actually cause you harm nor are they dangerous, as much as it might not feel like it during an attack.
Panic attacks can generate a significant amount of fear and suffering for several reasons:
- Bewilderment: when they first come on, they seem to arrive ‘out of the blue’ and come on with a surge of adrenaline. You get no warning, and the physical symptoms of panic attacks can feel very severe and generate feelings of dread, fear and of course panic.
- Physical symptoms: Panic attacks arrive with a range of physical symptoms that mimic other health problems. For example, many people with panic attacks suffer from a racing heart or heart palpitations and shortness of breath. It is for this reason, many people who suffer from panic attacks will go to the emergency room or doctor as they are worried about heart attacks or other health issues, even though there is nothing wrong with them on a physical level. This is why if you have not done so already, and you suffer form anxiety or panic attacks, I recommend seeing a doctor for a general check up to give you peace of mind about your symptoms. It can then be easier to focus on managing and ultimately recovering from panic and anxiety.
- Exaggerated thoughts and emotions: During a panic attack many people have the feeling something bad is going to happen, such as dying, losing control or going crazy. While extremely unpleasant and scary, these thoughts and emotions are actually normal and very common. Further, panic is often triggered by weird and strange thoughts, often called intrusive or obsessive thoughts. These can be graphic in nature and for some people can feel very disturbing and hard to stop thinking about. Again, while unpleasant, these thoughts are very normal and can be overcome.
Read more about anxiety signs and symptoms.