Panic and Anxiety Attack Symptoms and Diagnosis


Be Happy – The Anxiety Secrets You Need to Know...

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The symptoms of panic attacks, also known as anxiety attacks, can vary from person to person. What causes you to have a panic attack may be totally different to what causes another person to have an attack. Before we look at each of the panic symptoms it helps to understand how they are caused…

The common thread between people with panic disorder is fear of body sensations. It’s fear that powers your panic. Your body’s response to this fear is to trigger the flight-or-fight response. This ancient response is your body’s way of dealing with dangerous situations, so when you are in a dangerous situation you can more easily fight that danger or run from it.

However this response isn’t perfect.It can be set-off by situations, that although they may cause fear, aren’t actually dangerous. This is what happens when you have a panic attack. During the flight-or-fight response the hormone adrenaline is pumped through your body, and it’s this hormone that causes many of the symptoms associated with panic:

  • Accelerated Heartbeat: Blood is pumped around you body more quickly to provide more oxygen to the muscles, which means heart rate increases. Your heart might be pounding so hard you fear you’ll have a heart attack.
  • Deeper More Rapid Breathing: To provide more oxygen to allow you body to create more energy. This can lead to sensations of a tight chest which may cause you to believe that you’re suffocating. It can also cause you to feel dizzy and light headed, so much so you might believe you’re going to faint.
  • Increased Muscle Tension: This helps prepare for action. Muscle tension can cause muscle ache or shaking. In particular this can lead to the sensation of “jelly legs” where your legs feel weak and shaky.
  • Digestion Stops: All your body’s resources are diverted to vital survival responses, digestion isn’t one of those. This can cause feelings of nausea.
  • Blood Drains From The Skin: This frees up more blood for the muscles. Blood often drains away from fingers and toes, which is why hands and feet can feel weak and tingly too.
  • Sweating: To keep the body cooled in the event of intense action.
  • Dilation of Pupils: To help focus and view any potential threats. This can sometimes cause blurring of eyesight or sensitivity to light which can cause strange visual effects.
  • Dry Mouth: Saliva production stops, digestion is not required at this time. This can cause sensations of a dry throat, which can cause uncomfortable swallowing feelings. For some people it feels like they are choking.
  • Senses Become Primed: You become highly sensitive to sight, sound and surroundings. Again, this helps detect any possible danger more readily. It can also cause what many panic sufferers experience as surreal feelings of unreality.

Sound familiar? That’s right, many of your panic symptoms are not really symptoms at all, they are simply the effects of adrenaline surging through your body, which has been triggered by fear.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV) you must have the following symptoms to be classified as suffering from panic disorder:

  • Have redcurrant unexpected panic attacks.
  • After a panic attack has been followed by you having at least one of these: 1. Persistent fear or concern about another attack. 2. Fear of what could happen during the next attack e.g. “I could have a heart attack”, “I could faint”, “I might go crazy.” 3. You start changing your behaviour e.g. avoid certain places or activities.
  • Panic disorder means you may or may not have agoraphobia (this is the fear and avoidance of certain places, which can sometimes cause panic sufferers to stop leaving their home altogether.)

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