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What does it feel like to have a Panic Attack?

 

At seven years old, Jon would run around his neighborhood. Mrs. Elaine had a horse property that extended 10 acres lining half the block of Jon’s street. The fencing was simple wire. Jon older brothers told him, if he touched it, death would be certain. Jon would feel terror each time he set eyes on the wire. One night as he was running home in the dark, cutting through Mrs. Elaine’s property, he felt a large gut punching jerk to his body. He was not sure what was happening. Jon felt another jolt after a few moments. Every few seconds the jolt coursed through his body. His body had wrapped around the wire and he was stuck. Jon felt the situation was out of control and did not feel he had the power to escape. Terror set in between jolts knowing it was going to occur again. Hope diminished with each jolt. After a few minutes, the pain started to decrease and Jon was able to come to his senses. He wiggled his way out of the wire. The power to the battery charging the fence exhausted, making escape possible. Walking away, Jon felt overwhelmed with fatigue. It was as though he had run a marathon.

After that, all Jon had to do was look in the direction of the fence and fear followed. His heart would drop to the floor. Then came the panic attacks. Jon would not even need to see the wire before the feeling of dread flooded his little body. Jon would start hyperventilating, his heart pounding and body sweating. Jon would feel a complete loss of control, feeling like he could die. Each panic attack would last a few minutes and then stop. The intensity of the situation would linger for hours. Jon started avoiding anything that might give him a chance to look at the fence. He stopped leaving his home preventing another panic attack. Jon’s panic attacks would happen one or two times a week and he constantly limited his life.

 

Panic attacks have a tendency to last 5 to 10 minutes, but for some a panic attack can last several hours. Sweating, loss of control, hyperventilating and heart pounding are experienced. Other symptoms of a panic attack are shortness of breath, choking, dizziness, nausea, shaking or even trembling. A common feature of panic attacks becoming panic disorder is the fear of having a panic attack before the onset of one. Those suffering with panic attacks will make accommodations to avoid situations that trigger panic attacks. One may become vigilant of the changes in their body to avoid the feeling happening. A panic attack can consist of all symptoms or one.

 

The origin of panic attacks is still somewhat of a mystery, but we do know that panic attacks can run in families. Even if one understood why panic attacks happen, it does not change the protocol for treatment. Even if Jon could be reassured that the fence would never shock him again, it would not change his panic attacks. Panic attacks can come and go in a person’s life. They can go weeks and even months to years without an attack, only to experience them again.


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