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Understanding the Symptoms of Panic Disorders

written by: Atlanta Page • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 3/17/2011

If you have ever felt panic, you may have asked yourself ,"what's wrong with me"? The symptoms of panic disorders can be very scary and debilitating. The author's first hand experience of panic, and how she dealt with it, provides insight into hope of recovery.

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    Symptoms of Panic Disorders

    Panic can strike, and most likely will strike, when you least expect it. You may then panic at the thought of having another episode and it becomes a cycle. Panic may be a one time thing but many will experience it again and again.

    NewYorkStreetScene-People-2 Panic and fear are related. Many people who suffer from panic disorder will also experience feelings of fear. For example, an overwhelming fear of death. When panic causes such fear that leads to a person fearing another attack, it can begin to take over their lives resulting in them rarely leaving their house.

    With a panic attack, you don't always know what set it off, as your subconscious is working even when you are resting. Many wake up in a panicked state with no idea of the cause.

    The body takes over, and the rational mind is left with no way to make it stop until your body calms down. Irrational thinking can accompany the panic and fear, leading to a dangerous situation for the person experiencing it, if they overreact. The tendency is to flee or run away.

    Feelings of being unable to breathe, uncontrollable crying, heart pain, heart palpitations, choking, even dizziness and fear, can lead to a full blown panic attack. Even though you may be able to realize you are panicking, your feelings are so intense that it is difficult to regain composure.

    Afterwards feelings of embarrassment, sadness, or frustration can follow these symptoms of panic disorders.

    Those experiencing a panic attack, or suffering with a panic disorder, can't just switch it on or off. It is something that catches them off guard. They may otherwise be a very happy and confident person.

    You may experience some or all of these symptoms.

    Panic is associated with sudden feelings of anxiety that can result in some real physical feelings such as:

    • Heart pain
    • Heart palpitations
    • Fear
    • Dizziness
    • Trouble breathing, such as heavy breathing, which may lead to hyperventilation
    • Coughing or choking
    • Nervousness
    • Uncontrollable feelings of stress

    Many have thoughts that are connected to their feelings, some of these may be:

    • Thoughts and feelings of being out of control
    • Why is this happening to me?
    • Am I going crazy?
    • Something bad is wrong with me!
    • Someone help me!
    • I'm so embarrassed!
    • I am scared!
    • I can't face anyone again.
    • I've made a fool of myself(usually after an attack)
    • I don't know what to do
    • Thoughts of running away

    A person experiencing an attack may look fairly normal, or they may appear to be:

    • Disoriented (because they are dizzy)
    • Afraid
    • Shaking
    • Coughing or choking
    • Hyperventilating
    • Acting like they want to flee

    These are the most common symptoms that may occur when someone is suffering from a panic disorder, but not everyone is the same. The way a person deals with fear may play a role in their symptoms. Panic disorders have numerous causes and individuals may have individual additional fears associated with them.

    Continue to page 2 for the author's personal experience of hope!

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    There is hope! This is the resounding message, as the author explains how she overcame the grips of a panic disorder. Her story exists to inspire anyone going through panic, at no fault of their own.
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    Author's Personal Experience of Hope!

    Panic was not a factor in my life until I encountered a detrimental family member on a regular basis. This person created considerable stress for me.Don't Panic! 

    Over the years, I began to panic at the thought of interacting with this person. First it was once a year, then it grew to three, four, five times a year.

    I felt extreme fear, would cry and nearly hyperventilate when I heard the person knock at my front door. How could I open the door? I felt totally out of control. My immediate family helped to bring me to the point to where I could face this person. As I tried to gather composure, I finally was able to open the door.

    After this event, I realized this person was causing way too much stress in my life. I vowed to limit my exposure to it. As the old saying goes," you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends"; it is very important who your friends are.

    You need compassionate and positive friends (which may include family members) to help you overcome a panic disorder. I have faith in God, and He has never let me down. It has taken time, but the panic has slowly become almost non-existent. Once in a while I panic and wonder, why? I then realize I must have been subconsciously worrying about encountering this person.

    Running into someone who brings on panic, can cause you to turn and run away. I almost did this, but had my supportive immediate family with me, and they helped me through the encounter. If they had not been walking on all sides of me, I would have followed my instinct to turn and run.

    This is what panic feels like and what it can do to your life. Since this panic attack, I decided to not allow unplanned visits. This allows me to at least limit the stress in my own home. Once in a while I still fear a car will drive up and I'll be trapped with nowhere to go.

    It's so important to know the symptoms of panic disorders. In the event you ever have one, you will know what is going on. You may feel like you are going to die, but you won't!

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    Resources:

    Source: Authors own experience.

    Helpguide.org: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_types_symptoms_treatment.htm and http://helpguide.org/mental/panic_disorder_anxiety_attack_symptom_treatment.htm

    Kristen-McClure-Therapist.com: http://www.kristen-mcclure-therapist.com/signsandsymptomsofpanicattacks.html

    MedlinePlus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/panicdisorder.html

    Photo 1, page 1: Wikimedia Commons-Public Domain

    Photo 2, page 1: Wikimedia Commons-Public Domain: Dan Gerhard-Svg clipart of Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy green smilie.

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