Panic Attacks Explained Simply
I have experienced more panic attacks than I can count. On average, I have one panic attack per week, and that is after panic attack treatment. Before I knew what was happening to me, I was experiencing panic attacks multiple times per week. Because I am a social person, I often experience these attacks around other people. This has made me very good at explaining, in layman’s terms, exactly what a panic attack is.
The Medical Definition of a Panic Attack
Before I explain what a panic attack feels like, what it is to me, and how the average person feels about it, let’s get the medical definition out of the way:
“A panic attack is a serious condition that comes on suddenly, without warning. It's different from the normal reactions of fear and anxiety we have in response to stressful life events. Symptoms are extremely intense, lasting around 10 minutes for most people. But some panic attacks can last longer, or occur one after another, making it difficult to discern when one ends and another begins.”
The Layman’s Explanation of a Panic Attack
To explain a panic attack in layman’s term isn’t as easy. There is a fair amount of personal bias involved. Even if the same physical and mental sensations are involved, my subjective, personal experience will be different from another person’s. That being said, there do seem to be some common themes (read about panic attack symptoms).
Most people, including myself, describe a panic attack as a loss of mental control, rapid heartbeats, and profuse sweating. Think of how your body feels moments after a near accident or the physical sensations of a roller coaster ride. The major difference, of course, is that there isn’t a “normal” reason for this attack. A person is minding their own business and suddenly these sensations occur. The disorder, quite literally, attacks.
A panic attack is a surprise infusion of fear into a person. Imagine your worst fear gripping you for no reason. You can’t escape it because you aren’t quite sure why it is happening and, more than likely, the racing thoughts and clouded mental state make it impossible to make the best decision, especially quickly. Put simply, a panic attack can best be described as “freaking out.”
In the end, the word everyone should focus on is attack. It isn’t a panic disruption, a panic annoyance, or a panic inconvenience. It is a called a panic attack for a reason. It comes out of nowhere and attacks the body, both physically and mentally. It is a sudden onset of symptoms that leaves the victim terrified and unable to defend themselves. It literally attacks us using our primal urges.
Long story short: The name, quite literally, explains it all.
Howard, G. (2014, November 5). Panic Attacks Explained Simply, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/11/panic-attacks-explained-simply
Author: Gabe Howard
Gabe Howard, the author of this post, is no longer writing for HealthyPlace and is unable to respond to comments. Thank you for sharing your insight. It is indeed very important that people understand panic attacks (and anything else, for that matter). When we understand them in causal terms as well medical terms (not necessarily jargon, but definitely a technical explanation), true treatment can happen. The doctor-client relationship and team approach is vital, too. Your thoughts on this are helpful.
Just my opinion on this......
I greatly appreciate you being so very transparent and making yourself so vulnerable to others. Anytime
we share our personal viewpoints, people can easily misinterpret what we mean.
I used to have panic attacks regularly many years ago and took medication for them. I have had very many in the past years and don't really know why. I sure wish my bipolar disorder would disappear like this :)
Thank you so much. I appreciate your kind words and for reading! I think many people wish bipolar, anxiety, depression, etc would just go away. I think we can all agree with that!
Many hugs -
I am sorry for the confusion but, that isn't what I meant or even said. Thank you for commenting - Gabe
This comment actually belongs here: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/05/anxiety-says-everyone-hates-me/
I apologize for the mistake!
Panic attacks are a terrible and I wouldn't wish them on anyone. Thank you for reading and commenting. ~Gabe
Yes, as the blog article in question says, I do have panic and anxiety. I assure you I understand. I also disagree with the thought that "people who suffer from this disorder" do not want to seek treatment. I suffer from this disorder and I seek treatment. I agree that I can't prevent them. I want to again state that I said "it is possible they are being a drama queen or it is possible they are having an anxiety attack."
I never, ever stated that people having a panic attack were being a drama queen. I am sorry you read it this way. My sincerest apologies.
Be Well and regards -