panic attack anxiety

panic attack anxiety

One morning at work as a waitress, Adrian became sick to her stomach. She’d always had a rather sensitive stomach, and the night before she’d thought she might be coming down with something. After a few moments of queasiness the idea struck her that she might vomit uncontrollably on one of her tables while they ordered. At the thought of this her hands started to shake violently. She held them out to show the other waitresses how much she shook, and their eyes widened in amazement. She felt like there was a huge weight on her chest and she couldn’t seem to breathe. Her hands were sweaty, and she felt as if she just wanted to drop her tray and flee out the door to safety. She couldn’t handle it; she had to get out.

What Adrian was experiencing was a panic attack. Unexpected panic attacks can come on suddenly for no apparent reason. They can also, as in Adrian’s case, be brought on by situations. Adrian frequently has panic attacks when she gets nauseated in public, and these are called situationally predisposed panic attacks. The other type of panic attack is situational, and always occurs when a person is put in a certain situation. A person with social anxiety disorder might always have a panic attack right before a meeting with an authority figure.

A panic attack is characterized by the immediate onset of at least four of the following symptoms:

  • immense sweating
  • heart palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • chest pain
  • feeling of choking
  • intense need to flee
  • trembling
  • nausea
  • tingling
  • chills and/or hot flashes
  • fear of death
  • feeling of certain danger

Panic attacks can be extremely debilitating. Adrian ended up having to call someone in to finish the rest of her shift. Once she got out of what she saw as harm’s way, though, the symptoms subsided and she was able to calm down. Some people might experience a random panic attack once and never again, but a person who suffers from these kind of attacks regularly might suffer from a panic disorder.

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