A panic attack is a rush of intense psychological and physical symptoms. They can be frightening and happen suddenly, often for no clear reason.

They usually last between 5 and 20 minutes, and although it may feel as though you are in serious trouble, they aren’t dangerous and shouldn’t cause any physical harm. It is unlikely you will be admitted to hospital if you have a panic attack.

You may feel an overwhelming sense of fear and a sense of unreality, as if you’re detached from the world around you.
As well as psychological symptoms, you may also experience physical symptoms, such as:

Panic attack symptoms 

a sensation that your heart is beating irregularly
shortness of breath
a choking sensation
chest pain
feeling sick.

The physical symptoms of a panic attack are caused by your body going into “fight or flight” mode in response to something you think is a threat. As your body tries to take in more oxygen your breathing quickens. Your body also releases hormones, such as adrenaline, causing your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense up.

Panic attacks can come without warning, and sufferers can see no real reason why they should be experiencing them. But there is usually a cause.

Some people experience panic in shops, restaurants, garages, hotels, travelling on a bus, they then develop safety strategies around going out which often leads them to staying in at home, to the extent where they become housebound and feel trapped. Often suffers will be on medication such as antidepressants, beta blockers or diazepam.

How panic changes you

1. fear steps in and takes control
2. you develop an inner focus
3. you become afraid of feelings
4. you create a negative cycle of fear on top of fear
5. you create a lifestyle of avoidance

Counselling can explore your experience of panic attacks and help you develop an understanding of where they came from, what to do when they occur and how to take proactive steps to reduce them, creating more calm in your life.