What are Panic Attacks?

by Kauser Adenwala

      Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. It seems like the world is going to burst through space - explode into a million pieces, crumble up each living individual on this planet. There is no escape, no elopement whatsoever. This frightening experience is none other than a panic attack.         

       A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety or fear where breathing suddenly becomes a strenuous task. It may be a one-time occurrence or may come as often as every day and can take a toll on a person’s emotional and physical health. Fatigue is also quite common after an attack that can usually last from ten minutes to a whole day.

    During a panic attack, a person is actually feeling an exaggeration of the arousal of the nervous system. The flight or fight response eventually kicks in and this is when the attack hits its peak, the indescribable fear.               

     Factors that can play a role in triggering a panic attack are genetics, environmental stress, and adaptive changes in the brain resulting from other medical or psychiatric conditions. The worst part about it is that it can strike at any given moment throughout the day, whether it’s at the grocery store or even at school. Living with this constant fear can trigger or worsen symptoms of depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder. Neal Sideman, a sufferer of panic attacks, explains his struggle with panic attacks, “Every aspect of my life was deeply affected. Once, a friend asked me to explain what things I couldn't do. I answered that it would take much less time if I simply listed those things I could do.” Fortunately, he was able to find a cure through education of what attacks are and meditation. Meditation provided him with a sense of peace and tranquility.

      It’s surprising to believe that 40 million adults in the United States of 18 or older suffer from anxiety, but only a third of this amount actually receive treatment. Why are panic attacks dismissed so easily when they cause so much stress?            

        The answer is: because not many know what an actual panic attack is. People mistake it for a stroke or some type of physical illness. It is so much more than that, which is why students should be educated on what a panic attack actually is. Suffering from panic attacks makes everything so unbearable, everything seems so broken, so irreparable.

    The most helpful way to deal with an attack is to accept the fact that it is here and that there is no avoiding it. Simply acknowledging the attack and waiting it out is the only way to get through it sanely, or at least more sane than absolutely freaking out.

       Panic attacks cause a person to feel like their world is coming to an abrupt end, when in reality, it is not. Fear is completely normal, but not to the extent that a panic attack can bring. If you are experiencing panic attacks, seek professional help, or at least some type of therapy route by talking to a loved one. Panic disorders are easily treatable so fighting or struggling through them without help is quite pointless and causes unnecessary stress.