If you or a loved one is experiencing frequent anxiety, you may be wondering if panic attacks are the cause. However, there are several fundamental symptoms of panic attacks that separate them from normal anxiety and stress. Knowing these symptoms is very important, because if you or someone you know is truly suffering from panic attacks, medical and psychological help may be needed.
Here are the primary symptoms of panic attacks:
- Rapid heartbeat. When a person has a panic attack, it is usually accompanied by a significant increase in heart rate. Keep in mind, though that this is not the same as an irregular heart beat – if you notice an irregular heart rhythm, you will need to consult a doctor or emergency professional right away, as this is a symptom of a heart attack.
- Difficulty in breathing, such as a rapid breathing rate. Panic attacks cause the body to need much more air than usual, so rapid breathing is quite common when a person is experiencing an attack. Physical shaking or trembling. When a person is having a panic attack, you will often notice that his or her hands are shaking. In some cases, it may seem as though the person’s entire body is trembling.
- An overwhelming feeling of dread. While the feelings associated with normal anxiety can usually be controlled, panic attacks bring a feeling of dread that is nearly impossible to get out from under. Panic attack sufferers frequently feel as though a disaster is about to happen, even when there is no external evidence to support this belief.
- Sweating. A person having a panic attack will sometimes begin sweating profusely. You will notice beads of sweat forming on the forehead almost as soon as a panic attack begins.
- Searching for a means of escape. When a person goes into a panic attack, he or she will naturally begin looking around for a means to escape the situation. This is especially true if the person is in a social situation, such as attending a sporting event or visiting the mall. The person does not want anyone to see the panic attack occurring, and may feel as though he or she could control the attack if escape from the situation was possible.
- Hot flashes or chills. The human body goes through quite a few chemical changes when a panic attack happens – many of these changes will produce either hot flashes or chills. In some cases, the panic attack sufferer will experience alternating hot and cold flashes.
- A sense of tingling in the extremities. A person suffering a panic attack will frequently feel as though his or her fingers and toes are being pricked with needles.
If you notice that you are experiencing these symptoms of panic attacks, it is important to contact your doctor to obtain a formal diagnosis, and to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. There is a wide variety of treatment options available, from counseling, to medication, to meditation and yoga. You and your doctor will decide what treatment options are best for you, so you can stop living with panic attacks, and start making progress toward recovery.