15 Facts About Panic Attacks That Will Make You Feel Things
The truth about the crippling condition that's scary AF.
Maybe you’re out for a walk, at work, on a date, or sitting at home watching Netflix, and for literally no reason at all, you suddenly feel that something is very wrong.
1. Anyone can have a panic attack.
2. About 6 million people in America have panic disorder.
3. Some people are more likely to develop panic disorder than others.
4. The symptoms of a panic attack are crippling and very real.
5. What you’re actually feeling during a panic attack is an exaggeration of the arousal of your sympathetic nervous system.
So what's actually happening in your body to cause all this chaos? Wilson explains: First your brain picks up on some perceived threat, which might be something like a random scary thought that you're not even conscious of or a weird heartbeat rhythm. Your thalamus brings that sensory information to your amygdala, which translates it as danger and triggers the arousal of your sympathetic nervous system, which gives off the fight-or-flight response. During this time, epinephrine (your body's adrenaline) is secreted in your brain and body, which triggers symptoms like an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, a rise in blood pressure, dilating pupils, dry mouth, and others.
These are normal sympathetic responses — they would happen naturally if you were in a fight with a lion — but because you're NOT faced with a lion, you start to panic and ascribe meaning to these symptoms to try to make sense of them, like you're having a heart attack/having an allergic reaction/about to pass out/actually dying/etc. This fear and panic can cause other symptoms to kick in and may also trigger hyperventilation (which can add on symptoms like shaking, tingling, dizziness, trouble breathing, chest pain, etc.).