Tumi was sitting thinking about work when she realised, she forgot to do something. She felt her heart going fast. ‘Is she having a heart attack?’, she thought. Her whole body started shaking and she felt hot. She was thinking fast, her thoughts jumping, ‘Am I going crazy? Am I going to die?’
What Tumi experienced was a panic attack. It can happen to anyone and feels very scary. But what is most important to know is that it will pass, and it is possible to manage.
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear or discomfort. It happens without warning and is often not a response to a dangerous or scary situation. A panic attack can be triggered by a variety of factors – stress, trauma, caffeine, certain medications, and physical exertion. A panic attack usually lasts for a few minutes but can sometimes continue for longer periods. The symptoms can be different every time and the seriousness and length of symptoms can vary from person to person.
You may start to avoid certain situations because you fear they’ll trigger another attack. Not everyone who has panic attacks has a mental health condition, but they often occur in people with panic disorder.
A Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder where you regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear. Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and panic at certain times. It’s a natural response to stressful or dangerous situations. But someone with a panic disorder has feelings of anxiety, stress and panic regularly and at any time, often for no apparent reason.
A panic attack involves both physical and psychological symptoms – which aren’t dangerous but are very frightening.