These are unpredictable attacks of extreme anxiety that usually last for about ten minutes. They make you feel out of control and may cause you to have difficulty breathing. You may also have other signs of anxiety such as a racing heart, trembling, feeling sick or fainting.
Panic attacks usually last for about 10 minutes before the feelings calm down and gradually go away, but they can leave you feeling quite shaken.
Why does it affect some people more than others?
It can be difficult to work out why some people are more affected than others but it could be: A family history of anxiety. A trauma or bad experience in childhood. Some physical or mental health problems can make you anxious. It can just be part of your personality. Some drugs can cause high anxiety.
What Can I Do?
Panic attacks are not life threatening even though they make you feel that way. Because of this, sufferers may restrict their normal activities in order to avoid them but this is not the answer! Confront your fear. When the symptoms of panic start, try the following:
Tell yourself that you are not in danger and the symptoms are caused by anxiety.
Try to keep doing things. If possible, don’t leave the situation until the anxiety has subsided.
Don’t run away from your fear. This will help you to discover that nothing bad is going to happen.
As the anxiety begins to pass, start to focus on what you were doing before.
It can be helpful if someone is with you, reassuring you that the symptoms are nothing to worry about.
Learning some simple relaxation techniques can help to relieve some of this stress and tension, and may also help you to deal more effectively with your panic attacks when they occur.
You can find out more about Deep Breathing and Deep Muscle Relaxation exercises from your school nurse or from the Health Matters site. You will also need to practice these exercises.
There’s no quick fix but you can learn to control your attacks. If they happen frequently or you are finding them difficult to control, ask your school nurse or family doctor for more specialised help.