“I think I am having a panic attack! How can I stop it?”
Both my teenagers have asked me this question at some point during their young lives. Panic occurs as a natural result of anxiety. Yet anxiety is a term so readily bandied around nowadays that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between that which is genuinely life changing and that which is a fleeting response to a stressful situation.
We all have moments in our lives which we find stressful but anxiety at its most serious is debilitating and can drastically affect the sufferer’s day to day life and that of those around them.
In the case of my teens both were experiencing moments of heightened anxiety as a result of exams, a normal scenario for many. However, as a sufferer of panic attacks myself some years ago I am all too conscious of the need not to dismiss another’s anxiety out of turn and find myself naturally sympathetic to those coming out as a fellow victim.
My own experience was unprecedented. There was no logical reason for it and that is often the most frustrating aspect. It doesn’t make sense. But then again it is not meant to. I consider myself to be a relatively resilient person but found myself knocked sideaways for a good 6 months by recurrent panic attacks.
Surviving or Thriving, the report released earlier this year by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that over a quarter of people in the UK say that they have experienced panic attacks at some point during their lives. That is not an insignificant number and justifies the need for an emphasis on treating and caring for our nation’s mental health.
The challenge with anxiety lies in recognising when you have a problem that could benefit from expert help.
So starting with the basics, what is a panic attack and what does it feel like?
If you talk to anyone that has had a panic attack one of the first things they would say in describing one is that they thought they were having a heart attack