Don't panic, there's help for sufferers

ONE in three people will suffer a panic attack in their lifetime – and twice as many women as men will be affected.

One minute you could be watching Desperate Housewives on television and the next your teeth may be chattering and your chest pounding.

Symptoms include a racing or pounding heart, suddenly flushing hot or cold, pains in your chest, pins and needles, difficulty breathing, dizziness, weakness in the legs and a churning stomach.

Panic attacks are physical symptoms caused by a surge of adrenaline rushing around the body.

During the attack, your body responds in the same way it would if someone burst into your house with a machine gun: it is preparing you for physical danger.

But when there is no physical danger, your body goes into panic mode and you experience the symptoms of an attack.

You could be at risk if you suffer from anxiety or depression or if you are stressed or unable to cope.

You may have a family history of panic attacks.

Antidepressants may be necessary in some cases; in other cases, beta-blockers which tame the heart beat could clamp down on your response to adrenaline.

Try to practise abdominal breathing. Vigorous exercise also helps burn off excess energy. Pick two or three statements that help you, and repeat them out loud each day, for example:

“Right now I have some feelings I don't like. They are really just phantoms, however, because they are disappearing. I will be fine.”

“These will be over with soon and I'll be fine. For now, I am going to focus on doing something else.”

Helpful websites include:;; and

Symptoms of a panic attack ...

  • raging heartbeat
  • difficulty breathing, feeling as though you can't get enough air
  • terror that is almost paralysing
  • nervous, shaking, stress
  • heart palpitation, feeling of dread
  • dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea
  • trembling, sweating, shaking
  • choking, chest pains, distress
  • fear, fright, afraid, anxious
  • hot flashes, or sudden chills
  • tingling in fingers or toes (‘pins and needles')
  • fearful that you're going to go crazy or are about to die

— from

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