Panic attacks are more common than most people think. Unfortunately, it is not widely discussed and spotlighted, especially in Malaysia.
Contrary to stigmatising beliefs, panic attacks are not an overreaction. People are not being dramatic to attract attention. They genuinely cannot control these attacks.
Panic attacks often follow an unexpected and intense wave of fear and anxiety. Sometimes there are known triggers that bring about an attack such as stress or phobias, and other times, they happen out of the blue with no clear trigger. Essentially, the body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode, even though there is no real danger or threat. These attacks can feel different for every individual who experiences them and can last from around 10 minutes to an hour.
Here is an array of symptoms that have been recorded:
- Pounding or racing heart
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Chest pain and discomfort
- Fear of dying / feeling loss of control or safety
- Nausea or abdominal pain
- Dizzy or faint
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Hot flushes or chills
- Trembling or shaking
- Feeling of choking
During these attacks, one can feel like he or she is losing control, having a heart attack, about to collapse or can even feel like they are about to die. Although these attacks are not actually dangerous and do not leave any permanent physical damage, the experience is very real and will feel purely catastrophic. The combination of emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms can leave the individual feeling distraught and in pure terror. It is not only a terrifying experience for the person having the attack but also for the person or people observing. Having an attack can take a severe emotional toll on someone and eventually lead to other symptoms such as anticipatory anxiety and phobic avoidance.
Panic attacks are involuntary, debilitating and occur without warning. They are very real.