What Happens in the Brain During a Panic Attack?

What Happens During a Panic Attack?

"I'll never live through this."

"I'm losing my mind."

"I've completely lost control."

"There's no way I can escape."

"Everyone will think I'm nuts."

In the U.S. more than 4 million people have these frightening thoughts while suffering a myriad of distressing physical symptoms. Attacks strike suddenly, with a rush of adrenaline, all occurring without any obvious sign of danger. Our automatic fight or flight reaction is triggered for no apparent reason. People who are prone to these attacks are usually extremely sensitive to physical sensations or fluctuations occurring in their body. How an individual perceives these symptoms determines their anxiety level. If you attach catastrophic thoughts to these feelings, like the ones listed above, you are very likely going to activate your fight or flight response by releasing adrenaline.

Symptoms that Commonly Occur when Panic Strikes:

  • Pounding or rapid heartbeat
  • The shakes
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Light-headedness or faint
  • Vision blurred
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Flushed and/or sweating
  • Fluttering stomach or sinking feeling

What causes a panic attack? Considering these distressing physical symptoms, it's perfectly understandable why someone might start thinking catastrophic things are happening or about to happen. It is this kind of intense fear that drives the anxiety to become sheer panic. You may not be asking, "Am I having a panic attack or a heart attack?" You may just be focusing on your bodily sensations of panic attack chest pain and immediately assume you're suffering a heart attack.

Many people in the midst of an attack wind up in an emergency room absolutely certain something dire is happening to them. Logically, you see that you're not in any physical danger so you can only assume that something must be seriously wrong with you physically. When we focus our catastrophic thoughts on ourselves, it only fans the flame. Each thought compounds the severity of our symptoms, increasing the adrenaline rush, which just makes our physical symptoms intensify, which leads to more catastrophic thoughts, which drives you into a full on panic attack.

It is absolutely crucial that you learn to recognize the initial signs of an attack. a good habit is to keep a record of the encounters. By keeping a record or log of your attacks, you can identify what actually happens that leads up to you having a full-blown attack. This information can help you devise coping strategies that you can employ to stop a panic attack before it strikes. Utilizing your toolbox you can learn to prevent it at whatever level of anxiety you are experiencing, on a scale of 0, which is feeling calm to 10, which would be a major panic attack.