Ever freaked out without warning or been struck down by unexplainable terror? One in eight people suffer from panic attacks, often when they least expect it.
What is it?
A panic attack is sparked by an involuntary quickening in your breathing rate, triggered by stress and/or anxiety. As you breathe faster, you take in more oxygen - speeding up the heart rate. This increases adrenalin levels, a natural stimulant in the body, which effectively worries the mind into a state of alert. The resulting attack can last for a matter of seconds or sometimes minutes, and involve some of the following symptoms:
- Dizziness and nausea
- Hot and cold flushes
- Heart palpitations and a tight sensation in the chest
- Feelings of impending disaster or death
If you feel you're about to lose it, try out this simple exercise:
- Take long, deep breaths.
- Fill your lungs, count to three and exhale slowly.
- Repeat until the feelings of panic pass.
Avoid a repeat by reducing your stress levels. Get work into perspective, learn to relax and shape up your lifestyle:
- Eat properly
- Sleep regularly
- Exercise frequently
- Cut down on alcohol, caffeine and other drugs.
- In the long term, sufferers can be effectively treated with a combination of medication and therapy.
- Counselling programmes aim to help identify potential triggers for an attack (ie a place, phobia or state of mind) and enable sufferers to minimise the risks.
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