Severe Panic Attacks

Are all panic attacks alike? Or is it possible to experience severe panic attacks that are far worse than any other? Does it make a difference how many panic attacks you’ve already had before or how you cope with them?

What Exactly are Severe Panic Attacks?

Ask anybody who has suffered a panic attack before and nearly all of them will say that it was severe. So is there such a thing as a less severe attack?

This is a question of individual perception. The reality is that there is actually not much difference between one person’s attack and another in terms of severity but there is in terms of quality. To understand this we need to figure out what is happening in the body during a panic attack.

Sympathetic Nervous System

When you have a panic attack, the sympathetic nervous system in your body goes into overdrive.

First there is the the sensation of fear. The SNS automatically responds to this and delivers adrenalin throughout your body, preparing you to escape the threat that it think you are facing.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of this response such as increased heart rate (to give the muscles the ability to move faster) and increased sweating (to cool the body down) are often mistaken for what they really are and the result is even more fear. Even more fear leads to an even greater SNS response. Within ten minutes, a full blown panic attack has reached its peak.

So you can see that, unless coping mechanisms are used, most panic attacks will reach their natural peak. Therefore, there isn’t really a scale of panic attack intensity. In the main, almost all attacks canbe considered severe panic attacks.

Quality Of Symptoms

How they will vary is qualitiatively. Some people will experience a different set of symptoms to others. For example, one person may feel dizzy, light headed and nauseous and a feeling of impending doom. Others may experience heart palpitations and chest pains but no other symptoms.

First Time

The first time you experience a panic attack is likely to be one of the worst. As you experience more of them then you come to learn what to expect. You also learn how to cope with them using various coping strategies. The net result is that they appear to get less severe over time thanks to your intervention.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is not a ‘severe’ type of panic attack but is actually a condition that affects a minority of panic attack sufferers.

Some people will fear so greatly their next panic attack that this fear alone can be enough to actually set off the panic attack. Such people suffering from panic disorder often avoid social situations and prefer to stay indoors so as not to trigger an attack. Whilst this is a severe condition in itself, what may feeling like severe panic attacks themselves are generally no more or less severe than anyone else’s.

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