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The definition of panic is a sudden, unreasoning, hysterical fear often spreading quickly. Anxiety's definition is a state of being uneasy, apprehensive, or worried about what may happen (Webster's New World Dictionary).

So it figures that a panic/anxiety attack is a sudden onset of fear and all the feelings associated with anxiety. Because symptoms vary from person to person, you may have only one of the symptoms or all of them. In a person with Panic/Anxiety Disorder, the nervous system is overworked and overtired. Because the system is "burned-out", it responds to any stress as if it were a full blown crisis.

The main symptoms/sensations people experience during a panic attack and an explanation for their cause are as follows:

1. Sweating/Hot & Cold Flashes: When adrenaline is released by your body during a stressful event, a signal is sent by your sweat glands to create sweat causing your skin to be slippery to any predator trying to grab you. When the perceived danger has ended your body must return to normal temperature causing you to feel chills.

2. Rapid, Pounding Heart rate: When you are threatened, your heart rate speeds up to increase the oxygen flow to your organs.

3. Numb/Tingling extremities: While your heart is racing to increase oxygen flow, your brain also sends a signal to cut blood flow to your hands and feet as they are the area most likely to take the brunt of an attack. The lack of blood flow to those areas causes the numbness.

4. Tightness of chest/
Hyperventilation/Breathlessness/Choking/Dry Mouth:
In order to get more oxygen into your system, a person in the midst of panic breathes more rapidly. The strain on the lungs causes tightness or pain in the chest, and a choking sensation takes place.

5. Dizziness: The increase of oxygen in your system on top of the decreased flow of blood to extremities (that includes your head) can cause dizziness. It is highly unlikely that you will pass out during a panic attack, but the fear of the dizziness actually increases the panic sensations.

6. Vision changes: When you are in a fearful or aroused state, your pupils widen to allow as much light as possible in to see any hidden enemies. Due to the widened pupils, it appears as if your vision has altered. This change can cause the increased light, spots in your vision, and blurred vision.

7. Muscle aches/Fatigue/Shaking/Tremors: Your body is on high alert and is tense and ready for anything. Coming down out of the panic attack takes time. Your muscles start to tremor to release the tension. They will ache afterwards. And since, to your body, you just went through the equivalent of a major workout, you are exhausted afterwards.

The keys to getting through a panic/anxiety attack are the following:

1. Learn to control your breathing. Take a deep breath in (so that your belly moves out as you breathe), hold it, and then slowly breathe it out. Practice the controlled breathing often. Not just in times of stress.

2. Muscle relaxation is important. Learn to completely relax your muscles. Keep practicing until it takes no effort to completely relax. Work one muscle group at a time.

3. See a counselor. This is the most important part. It is not just in your head. It is a real and scary condition. There are great counselors out there that can help you learn what triggers your attacks and how to overcome them. They will never go away, but you can learn how to cope.

Definitely talk to your doctor about it. There are several treatment options.