A tightening of my chest suddenly interrupts my breathing. I’m trying to inhale, but only a tiny passage of air streams into my body. My head is feeling light as I start to see blurry, shaky, vision. I’m losing control. Am I dying? What is going on? I think I’m dying. Someone. Anyone. Please…. help…. me…
Have you ever felt like this? Or had a similar experience? This is called a panic attack. Not fun, is it? Nope. I had experience this and anxiety attacks multiple times. And let’s just say it’s not a walk in a park. I know on my previous entry, Anxiety vs. Stress, I have discussed about both anxiety and stress. How they are a part of depression, what’s the difference, how many people suffer from it, and how to cope with them. It also inspired me to create this entry about having anxiety/panic attacks when in a stressful/anxious state.
But before we get into the subject matter, we have to learn to differentiate between the two. Because believe it or not, there is a difference. Everything that I have described in my opening it’s how panic attacks are, and so much more! Sometimes I will get chills, nausea, and tingling/numbness, additional to the symptoms I have already described. Other people, will have similar feeling AND derealization or depersonalization. Derealization is feeling of unreality. Depersonaization is being detach from oneself. That I have never experience, but it seems scary. Have you ever felt that? If so, comment below.
What causes panic attacks? STRESS!!! Shocker, huh? But we’re talking about the big stress. For example, death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss, are few big stresses that can trigger a panic attack. Panic attacks can also be caused by medical conditions and other physical causes. If you’re suffering from symptoms of panic, it’s important to see a doctor. It can be cardiac issues, overactive thyroid gland, low blood sugar, medication withdrawal, or anything to stimulate your body (ie: amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine and etc).
Now, this wouldn’t be an Only Michy blog with out dropping some straight up statistics yo! **Hold an early 90’s hip-hop pose** So let’s get to it. Almost a quarter of people experience a panic attack in their lives at least once. That’s a lot! That’s nearly 2 billion people! Women are two times more than men to get panic attacks. Within 10 minutes, 81% of people feel the panic attack of the first symptoms. Only 61% of people gets treatments for panic attacks. I’m pretty surprise with that number, because I thought it would be lower. Though we can do better, I’m glad to see it’s higher than the half way point. Panic attacks must be in love with people in their late 40s and entire 50s. It gravitates to people between the age of 45 and 59. Now that I laid some dope ass facts, let’s Kris Kross our way to anxiety.
Well, I’m not going to get too in depth on anxiety since I have already elaborated about the topic (Anxiety vs Stress), but I will go into details on how anxiety attacks are different from panic attacks. Panic attacks are very sudden. Like someone one came from behind you and splat a pie in your face. Anxiety attacks is something that is builds up. Whatever a person have been worrying about, will eventually lead to an attack. An anxiety attack usually involves a fear of some specific occurrence or problem that could happen. Such as, an exam, workplace issues, a health issue(s), or a relationship problems. It is not a diagnosable condition, usually develops gradually when a person feels anxious, and less severe than a panic attack.
Whereas, panic attacks can be a symptom of panic disorder (diagnosable condition), can happen whether a person feels calm or anxious, and involves physical symptoms and feelings of terror so intense that the person fears a total loss of control or imminent death. Both panic and anxiety can involve fear, a pounding or racing heart, lightheadedness, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and irrational thoughts. However, in a panic attack, these are far more severe. The person may genuinely believe they are going to die. For panic attacks, a person is more likely to require medical attention if they have a panic attack versus an anxiety attack.
A person who has panic disorder may experience anxiety that they are going to have a panic attack. The uncertainty about if or when an attack is going to happen can lead to anxiety between attacks. For a person with panic disorder, anxiety may trigger a panic attack. The fear of having a panic attack can affect the person’s behavior and ability to function in daily life. I believe this and the palpitations is the reason why people confuse the two. Below, is a picture to demonstrate it best.
I personally would have anxiety attacks more than panic attacks. I usually anxious about everything! From going to parties, giving presentations at work and even going to NYC Comic Con. It’s usually people that freaks me out and getting nervous of what they would think of me. To prevent that from happening, I plan in advance. I like to see if I can go with a friend or if there is anybody I know that would be there. If not not, tell myself how long I will be there and what time I should arrive. Planning things out definitely prevents anxiety attacks. But in a situation that are last minute for me, I go some place else where there are less people and focus on my breathing. As soon my breathing is calm, I try talking to myself to relax my mind. Sometimes is works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, I need to exit the place and be somewhere safe. When it comes to panic attacks, it comes out of nowhere for me. Usually occurs when I am fully relax and not a care in the world. Then all the sudden shortness of breath happens and just like my opening, shit goes down. There are steps I take to feel better in that situation. Please read, Panic Attack, to find out.
I know it’s very overwhelming and you think no one understands or think you’re weird. But you’re not. From providing statistics and sharing my experience, it’s clear you’re not alone in this battle of attacks. Please share you story about your experience and what you do to manage your anxiety and/or panic attacks. Remember, you can do this. You just gotta adult one day at a time.