The term panic attack in Ireland can be used day to day to describe a reaction of disbelief - “You nearly gave me a panic attack bursting in that door” “I had a panic attack when I saw my phone bill”. This is an example of using the term in a light-hearted way, the reality of an actual panic attack is far from amusing.
A panic attack is an intense feeling of fear, a feeling that something terrible is going to happen and they can last a number of minutes. We have all experienced the shock of hearing a loud noise, jumping with fright and looking for the source of the noise. Imagine then having that feeling constantly for a number of minutes not knowing what’s causing that fearful reaction?
Panic Attacks can appear to come out of the blue, no warning signs. They can occur in a shopping store, standing in queue, sitting watching the telly or driving a car. The fear of having another attack is nearly worse than an actual attack itself. Not knowing why they occur can cause isolation, a feeling of going insane, of being disassociated with the outside world.
For many, they don’t talk about panic attacks for fear of being labeled a bit odd, worrying over nothing. They can be very difficult to explain to someone who has not experienced an actual panic attack. To live in fear is a terrible affliction, some turn to medication which in the short term can help. Others turn to drink or drugs to dull the underlying dread of having another attack. The body becomes stressed with these toxic substances, more panic attacks occur and a negative cycle begins.
Common physical reactions of a panic attack include pins and needles in the hands, a dry mouth, a feeling of light headiness, heart pounding and shortness of breath. This is part of our flight or fight response, diverting blood from external parts of the body to the central systems, pausing certain systems like digestion and getting the body ready to run or fight. If we were one to one with a wild animal this would be useful but not so when waiting in line at a supermarket.
Panic attacks trigger in times of change and uncertainty – leaving school or college, moving house, beginning a new job.There may be months and years between attacks which can seem baffling. The one constant with panic attack, is that they occur in times of stress. For example – studying for an exam, when hungover, being sleep deprived, working long hours or worrying constantly over a certain situation. When we are stressed, we are physically and mentally weaker than normal. At these times, our mind can interpret every day situations as life threatening and a panic attack is triggered.
Even though the situation may have been simply standing in a bar, the mind interprets the situation as dangerous. This can lead to avoidance of concerts, restaurants, supermarkets – places where they had panic attacks before. In extreme cases, this can lead to someone being too afraid to leave their house.
No one wants to live in fear, it’s exhausting and unpleasant. At Wexford Hypnosis we can help, Rory McCauley works as a Professional Hypnotherapist and overcame panic attacks using hypnosis. He now helps others do the same. To find out how hypnosis can help you, call Rory on 087 2167432