Panic Attacks

What is a panic attack?

Panic is an intense and exaggerated response to the body's normal response to fear, excitement or stress which is often referred to as the 'fight or flight' response.

Symptoms include:

  • racing heart
  • chest pain
  • sickness
  • dizziness
  • breathlessness
  • sweating
  • shaking

The 'fight or flight' response is the bodies biological response which is triggered when the brain senses a physical threat which it interprets as potentially harmful or as a matter of survival.  The rapid physiological changes are designed to equip the human body and other organisms with the necessary speed and strength to either fight or escape in a survival situation.

The specific changes in the body are:

  •  increased blood flow to the muscles by diverting blood from other parts of the body
  •  increased blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugars and fats in order to supply the body with additional energy
  • acceleration of the blood clotting function of the body to prevent excessive blood loss in the event of injury
  • increased muscle tension to provide extra speed and strength to the body

Typically individuals who experience repeated panic attacks catastrophically misinterpret their physical symptoms and create a vicious cycle.i.e a certain stimulus is interpreted as a threat, the physical sensations of the fight or flight response are experienced, these sensations are mis-interpreted as perhaps a heart attack or stroke, and this new threat intensifies the physical sensations of panic.

What happens if I experience the symptoms of panic?

If you experience the symptoms of panic you should report it immediately to you doctor who can who can try to find out what is causing the symptoms.



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Contact Rory Downes

Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist at Nottingham CBT