Having a panic attack is a frightening experience. The first time it happens to you, you may not fully understand what’s going on. Whether you’re in a public place or at your home, you might feel like you’re in serious danger, even if you’re perfectly safe.
Panic attacks can be debilitating—and they can happen without warning.
If you have ever had a panic attack before, you know that it can catch you off guard. But learning more about panic attacks can help you get a grasp on what causes them, why they happen, and what you can do to prevent them from happening in the future.
Here three important facts about panic attacks that everyone should be aware of.
1. Experiencing a Panic Can Feel Like a Heart Attack
You’re experiencing shortness of breath and intense chest pain. It feels like you’re having a heart attack.
You’ve never had a heart attack before, and you never imagined that it would happen to you. But your symptoms seem to match the description exactly. What else could it be? You’re ready to call 9-1-1 and head to the emergency room because you’ve never felt anything like this.
The fact is that a panic attack can actually feel very much like a heart attack. In essence, many people feel like they’re dying when they have their first panic attack.
Your heart is perfectly fine—it might be beating fast, but a panic attack won’t kill you. However, the physical pain and emotional distress you’re experiencing are very real. While a visit to the emergency room might not be the cure, seeking therapy could be the treatment that you need.
2. A Panic Attack Can Occur Without a Trigger
Sometimes, you’ll experience a panic attack because something triggers it.
Perhaps you see a person who reminds you of someone who was abusive towards you in the past. Or maybe you’ve ended up at a place where something traumatic happened to you. Whatever it is, it affects you on a deep level, and even if you try to stay calm, you may end up having a panic attack.
But it’s also entirely possible for a panic attack to occur without a trigger.
This can be extremely confusing. And if this happens to you, it’s natural to feel uncertain and afraid afterward. While you may eventually realize that you had a trigger that you were unaware of, on some occasions, panic attacks simply happen out of the blue.
3. Avoidance Can Worsen Panic Attacks
If you have ever had a panic attack and you know what triggered it, you might be doing your very best to avoid that trigger. In fact, you may do anything to go out of your way so that you won’t encounter it. You figure that if you don’t encounter the trigger, you’ll never have a panic attack again, right?
But avoidance as a strategy only works temporarily. At some point or another, you will have to face this trigger again. And instead of trying to run away from it, you will have to accept your circumstances
However, the fact that you’ve stayed away from things that may trigger you for so long could actually worsen your panic attack when it does occur. Instead of relying on avoidance, consider working with a qualified therapist to address your triggers.
Have you experienced a panic attack before? Are you worried that it will happen again? If you want to understand why panic attacks occur, why you may have had one, and how you can get to the root of your triggers so that you can live without fear, therapy can help.
Please, reach out to me today to talk about your options and how I can help you 828.513.6491 or for more information about anxiety or depression counseling, click here.
About the Author
Julia Nelson, LCMHCA, LMFTA is a psychotherapist and owns a private practice in Henderson County, (Flat Rock) NC and Rutherford County, (Forest City) NC. In general, she specializes in couples counseling, anxiety and depression counseling, premarital counseling, and parenting classes. She is also a Certified Clinical Military Counselor. To find out more about Julia click here: Nelson Christian Counseling.
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