Anxiety is a normal part of life, even though it may feel uncomfortable. Under certain circumstances, a high level of anxiety may even be beneficial, since it results in our bodies preparing to either escape or fight a potentially dangerous situation. This is known as the “fight or flight” response.
Most of us have an innate ability to manage anxiety. We feel anxiety in context – for example, being late for an appointment will cause mild anxiety, while being chased by a would-be attacker would create much higher levels of anxiety. We are generally able to determine the cause of our stress and respond appropriately, and once the threat has subsided, the anxiety levels drop.
If you find that anxiety strikes for no discernible reason, that you feel stress that is disproportionate to the cause, or that your anxiety does not go away once the stressful situation has been dealt with, you might be experiencing panic attacks. These frightening episodes are often accompanied by shortness of breath, a tight chest, heart palpitations, clammy skin, and a feeling of terror.
The symptoms of panic attacks vary from one person to the next. Although this is a mental health condition, it does tend to come with very troubling – and potentially harmful – physical symptoms. These include the following:
- Increased heart rate and respiration
- Heart palpitations and a feeling of tightness in the lungs
- Insomnia and nightmares
- Digestive problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea
Other symptoms include restlessness, fear or nervousness that does not subside, trembling and an inability to concentrate.
While studies suggest a possible genetic link to panic disorder, there are a number of other possible causes. Examples include medical conditions and the drugs used to treat them, a history of trauma or abuse that is seen or experienced, stress from major life events such as bereavement or job loss, and the existence of other mental health conditions.
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At InnerSight Psychotherapy, we believe that nobody should have to live with the trauma of panic attacks. If you are struggling, we urge you to come and see us, so that we can get started on a treatment plan that is customized just for you. A happy, healthy life is just around the corner, and we look forward to helping you make those first steps to recovery.