Panic Attack: Things to Know

Some of the most common triggers of a panic attack involve everyday situations such as the fear of boarding a flight, getting into a lift or traveling in public transport. Being in a crowded room could also trigger a panic attack. While most people in such a situation and with a panic disorder may feel a sense of discomfort and nausea, some may experience a heightened sense of fear. Apart from the physical symptoms such as palpitations, tense muscles and profuse sweating, an individual may also start feeling unsafe though there may be no real reason to do so.

As a result, such people often try to avoid facing situations that could act as triggers. This could result in them indulging in avoidance tactics and so miss being part of important social functions such as the graduation ceremony of a child or a wedding. Their excessive worry or fear can also isolate them from others who are unable to understand their condition.

The American Psychological Association estimates that one in every 75 people may experience a panic disorder, a serious and extremely debilitating condition that could severely impact the personal and professional life of a person. While the exact causes of a panic attack are unknown, it is believed that certain major life changes, such as those from school to college, marriage and the birth of a new born could cause a panic attack. These transitions may result in a sudden hormonal upsurge. In certain people, the risks are exacerbated because of a genetic predisposition to panic disorder. During some panic attacks, a person could re-visit a past trauma. Survivors of bombings or public shootings are more likely to experience a flight-or-fight response.

Feeling trapped and how that triggers a panic attack

Some panic attacks can make an individual feel trapped or can be the result of someone feeling that they are trapped. Some of the most common triggers are:

  • Irrational fear of planes: In today’s world, when people are increasingly relying on interconnectivity, the fear of planes can be disadvantageous. A person may refuse to take food or use the toilet in a flight, and sometimes get aggressive and scream.
  • Afraid of a fall: The fear of heights can deter people from climbing escalators or taking an apartment in a tall building. They may avoid adventure activities fearing they may fall to death. Even driving over a water body could trigger a deep sense of fear.
  • Fear of insects: Most insects are harmless and do not attack unless they are harmed first. But that does not prevent people from feeling afraid of them. The unexplained fear of spiders is one such instance and is fairly common. Some may also believe that a bug bite will inevitably lead to an infection or a fatal disease, which can intensify their anxiety.

Road to recoveryAnxiety disorders such as frequent panic attacks are treatable if an expert’s advice is sought in time. Delaying the problem doesn’t always mean that it will subside on its own. If you realize that you tend to get unreasonably worried or scared of situations and people, you should consult a mental health expert at the earliest. The most common treatment modalities are aimed at trigger prevention and trigger acceptance. Regular physical exercise, mind-calming activities and a healthy lifestyle can help to a great extent in controlling panic attacks.