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What’s a Panic Attack Really Like?
Supermodel Naomi Campbell and TV weatherman, Willard Scott are two of millions around the world who suffer from panic attacks or some form of anxiety disorder. It’s a problem that can have real serious physical implications–like the feeling of a real heart attack.
A person having a panic attack experiences a period of intense fear or discomfort while physically feeling some combination of these symptoms:
- heart palpitations
- feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness
- trembling or shaking
- nausea or abdominal distress
- chills or hot flushes
- shortness of breath
- tightness around the chest so extreme that it can feel like a heart attack
Persons suffering a panic attack can feel as if they’re about to die, to “lose control”or ‘go crazy’. They may feel as if the world seems unreal, or may feel detached from themselves. When panic attacks recur and are followed by significant fears of their reappearance and by changes in behavior- such as by avoiding circumstances that the person is afraid will trigger an attack- the person is diagnosed as having panic disorder.
Often panic attacks manifest themselves in the context of major life changes – graduation, a new job, a promotion – that have conflicted underlying meaning for the individual . A mental health therapist or counselor can help the anxious person to regain a sense of emotional control by considering the meaning of the symptoms in the context of his life and relationships. Because the predisposition to panic attacks has a biological underpinning, medications may be used in conjunction with psychoanalytic treatment. But studies have shown that a combination of medication and therapy works best for this problem. There are also alternatives to medications that many turn to for anxiety disorders. As always consult your doctor for medical advice and information.