What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden terror of something terrible happening. Usually, it’s accompanied physical symptoms, such as a pounding heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, hyperventilation, chest pain, headache, chills or hot flashes and dizziness. They’re also often accompanied by a sense of unreality or a fear of losing control. Panic attacks typically begin suddenly, without warning, and can occur at any time, even while you’re sleeping. Although some symptoms may last longer, an attack usually peaks within 10 minutes. The exact cause of panic attacks is unknown, but scientists believe that the neurophysiological processes are similar to bodies the “fight or flight” response.

What is normal panic?

Okay, so you’re not hyperventilating and your heart’s not pounding, but you’re still really worried and suddenly feeling anxious. The first thing to do is take a deep breath. Then, figure out what triggered that anxiety (“Oh, it’s the board meeting tomorrow”). Once you’ve done that, then you can begin to address your anxiety. The next step is to develop a plan to do that. Grab a piece of paper and write down your worries or concerns. Then, write down how you plan to address each of those concerns — and be as specific as you can. As you do that, you’ll start to feel greater control over those concerns and your panic will start to lessen.

Share This