Trembling feet, sweaty palms, blurry vision, and a pulsating heart rate—I was feeling a sharp pain in my chest. I tried to gain some balance so that I don’t fall on my head. At the same time, I remember asking myself, do 15-year olds get heart attacks?
Although it’s rare, they can. But mine wasn’t a heart attack. It was a panic attack. I had lost all sense of time and direction. I couldn’t walk straight or see clearly. When the attack subsided, I was so nervous about the experience I never spoke of it to another soul.
A couple of years later while watching a documentary, I heard the term panic attack for the first time. It reminded me of my experience and I decided to do some research. I learned several things about it. For instance, you can’t foresee a panic attack. It can hit you like a bullet train anytime, anywhere. They are most common in people above the age of 20, and women are more prone to panic attacks than men.
A panic attack is like an alarm system for your body, which is triggered when your brain senses danger or anxiety. Its intensity can be so sharp, it creates an illusion of heart attack. You feel like you are dying and you can’t do anything but wait until you draw your last breath.
A panic attack can get triggered by your fear of crowded places, fear of flights, or fear of failure among others. But as frightening a panic attack can be, the ‘precautions’ people take in the name of safety can be equally intimidating. For instance, if the trigger is water, many people refuse to go near a lake or oceans. Such steps don’t kill the fear but only suppress it until one day, it rains and all your hidden demons break free.
In this feature, Soulveda shares how to overpower a panic attack when anxiety and fear begin to get the best of you.
If you have experienced a panic attack before, you know that shortness of breath is the most common symptom. During a panic attack, we hyperventilate, which creates a sense of suffocation and heavy panting. Instead of taking short breaths, take long deep breaths. You have to bring your breathing in control. One way to do so is by counting your breath—inhale—hold; exhale—hold. Repeat this until your breathing comes back to its natural rhythm. It not only helps in gaining composure but it brings stability to mind as well.