Anxiety attacks or panic attacks are when an individual suffers overwhelming physical, psychological and emotional reactions, often unrelated to any specific situation. The individual is caught in the grip of unbearable worry or fear which is out of proportion to any present threat.
Physical reactions include sudden sweating, shaking, chest pains, sensations of insects running all over oneself, accelerated heart rate and/difficulty breathing. Emotionally, there is fear, dread and increased anxiety that control will be lost and other people are judging or laughing at them. Psychologically, there is a sense that one is going crazy or losing their ability to function. Together these symptoms are extremely worrying to the individual, especially where there is little immediate explanation for why they are occurring.
Anxiety attacks and disorders must be examined from the perspective of, ironically, wanting to get back into control. A trigger occurs related often to the original experience of fear which then sets off a range of unpleasant reactions. Anxiety attacks become disorders when they interfere with the person’s ability to function in everyday life. Anxiety attacks can occur when a person receives shocking news, highlighting the intensity of fear and sense of being thrown out of control.
Help is available to overcome the intensity of anxiety attacks, including immediate strategies to reduce the physical and psychological reactions. Long-term insight is encouraged to break the trigger response to earlier programmed reactions of fear. When a person is able to react more appropriately – when future anxiety ends up alerting them to what they need to address in their lives, it can be seen as a productive tool rather than a debilitating one.