Panic attacks are a silent epidemic that continues to spread. Their effects are made worse by stress and experiences that haven’t been processed properly – because in our society there’s no time for that. Unfortunately, they’re becoming more and more common and are usually treated professionally too late. In fact, people don’t usually go to therapy until they’ve become completely dysfunctional.
Symptoms include sweating, irregular heartbeat or strong palpitations, derealization, shaking, difficulty breathing, feeling too hot or too cold, and fear of dying, among many others. Anxiety disorders have many recurring physical symptoms, although the trigger isn’t always clear, and the anticipation of having a panic attack can even be a trigger.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), three out of every ten people suffer from panic attacks. The WHO estimates that around 6 million people seek professional help each year for one or more symptoms of panic attacks, of which 1 million present the full range of symptoms and are in treatment for it.
This phenomenon is relatively new. It wasn’t until 1980 that it was classified as its own disorder. This happened after thousands of mental health professionals around the world reported that the number of people who came to them with these sudden fits of terror kept increasing. They didn’t fit under other anxiety disorders, so they were given the name “panic attacks.”
Having a panic attack is an overwhelming experience
The worst thing about panic attacks is that they occur completely arbitrarily and stop the same way. The person can be calmly walking down the street and suddenly experience the same symptoms as those of a heart attack or a near-death experience. It feels like you’re looking death directly in the eye. In fact, most of the time it feels like it could end in death.
The first problem that the person might face is that if they don’t know what a panic attack is, they’ll probably assume they have some sort of physical illness. The most common thing people do is go to various doctors, but none of them can figure out what’s wrong with them.
Then the situation becomes very distressing. The person thinks that they’re sick, but the doctors can’t find anything, so they feel abandoned in their suffering. In general, their entire life changes. They start to fear leaving the house or being out somewhere alone.
They fear that the symptoms will present themselves again and they won’t have anyone to rescue them or help them. They also harbor strong feelings of sadness and frustration.
Understanding modern panic
Panic is a symptom that many people can experience. Some people have one or two attacks, and then it never happens again. Others have recurring attacks, which could be considered part of an anxiety disorder. It always comes with a lot of anxiety, due to the sudden appearance of symptoms and the difficulty finding the cause.
The most disconcerting part is that various studies have established that in general, the kinds of people that are most prone to suffering from panic attacks are those who have gone through difficult life experiences and have always maintained a certain amount of control.
They’re people who tend to resolve their problems and move forward through their difficulties. Therefore, when the panic starts, they resist accepting that something is happening that they can’t control. They struggle to admit that what’s happening to them has its origin in their mind, not their body.
The worst part is, most people only go to see mental health professionals after many years of dealing with their symptoms. They do it after many visits to their general practitioners and even seeing specialists (but not in the mental health field), who haven’t been able to give them an answer.
Because panic transforms their lives, they develop other problems like depression, distrust, irritability, and constant anxiety. This results in more problems, meaning that when they finally begin treatment, in general, the disorder is already pretty far along.
People think that panic attacks only present in people who live in big cities, but this is not true. Although they are more frequent in urban environments, people who live or spend most of their time in rural environments also suffer from them.
Certain psychological approaches state that the development of a panic disorder doesn’t depend on the context necessarily, but on an experience or latent internal conflict that hasn’t been resolved. That’s why psychotherapy is so important when it comes to dealing with this difficult situation.