So I did something rather odd just a few minutes ago while having an anxiety attack aka “panic attack” aka “please-stop-this-feeling-but-not-my-lungs-or-heart attack”, I searched online for detailed information on anxiety attacks.
Yep. I wanted to know more about this bear that has been jumping on and off my back randomly throughout my life. I also needed something to distract me as I tried to control my breathing.
Here’s what I found from that reliable (but don’t use it for academic research) source, Wikipedia:
While the various symptoms of a panic attack may cause the person to feel that their body is failing, it is in fact protecting itself from harm.
The various symptoms of a panic attack can be understood as follows. First, there is frequently (but not always) the sudden onset of fear with little provoking stimulus. This leads to a release of adrenaline (epinephrine) which brings about the so-called fight-or-flight response wherein the person’s body prepares for strenuous physical activity.
This leads to an increased heart rate (tachycardia), rapid breathing (hyperventilation) which may be perceived as shortness of breath (dyspnea), and sweating (which increases grip and aids heat loss). Because strenuous activity rarely ensues, the hyperventilation leads to a drop in carbon dioxide levels in the lungs and then in the blood.
This leads to shifts in blood pH (respiratory alkalosis or hypocapnia), which in turn can lead to many other symptoms, such as tingling or numbness, dizziness, burning and lightheadedness. Moreover, the release of adrenaline during a panic attack causes vasoconstriction resulting in slightly less blood flow to the head which causes dizziness and lightheadedness.
A panic attack can cause blood sugar to be drawn away from the brain and towards the major muscles. It is also possible for the person experiencing such an attack to feel as though they are unable to catch their breath, and they begin to take deeper breaths, which also acts to decrease carbon dioxide levels in the blood.
I also found out that it occurs more in women and those who are fighting hypoglycemia and hyperthyroidism, PTSD, OCD, inner ear disturbances, those with strong phobias, as well as other issues.
Jeesh how many people are out there being diagnosed as or chalked up to being crazy, and their only issue is anxiety and an inability to control it?
The information found also said that people who lack assertiveness are often pummeled by anxiety attacks because they hold things in too long and don’t assert themselves enough. That buildup of pressure eventually explodes into an attack. I guess one way to combat that is to learn to speak up and speak out more.
Then there’s the group of people with above average intelligence who break out in attacks because they have been conditioned usually since childhood to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, with an expectation to perform at the highest level all of the time. So the brainiac that you used to think was crazy when they randomly freaked out, was most likely having an anxiety attack.
Quite an interesting read. By the time I got half-way through my attack had pulled back and called a truce.
Want to read more? Want to learn more about the causes, classifications, and treatments for anxiety/panic attacks? Visit here
Oh and remember, when you’re having an attack:
– try to breathe slowly in and out of your nose and mouth (not just your mouth),
– don’t run out of fear (you will only make things worse),
– don’t get in a car and drive (if you lose consciousness that will only make things worse), and
– if you use the paper bag method to combat the hyperventilation—only breathe in the bag for a few breaths and then take a few breaths with the bag away from your face. Continue doing this until your breathing returns to normal.
Copyright 2014. Natasha Foreman Bryant. The Paradigm Life.