Yesterday, we talked about the power of prayer. Today, let’s talk about what you do when you don’t believe in the power of prayer – panic. Very few are blessed with unwavering faith, which would definitely come in handy in the case of an emergency – like, for instance, a tumultuous travel experience with five kids. The rest of us are left to navigate life without this vital tool. Hearing, “Don’t Panic!”, often has the opposite effect, setting off an alarm in our head. Despite all efforts to stay cool, we can lose control. During my flight on Saturday, the only thing more frightening than the prospect of not landing in one piece, was the very real possibility that someone would freak out and start randomly attacking passengers. I hoped that security had done their job and no one got through the gate with a weapon. There were several people onboard who were very close to violence – I won’t name names but honey, you know who you are. There is a difference between panicking and having a panic attack as anyone who has had one will tell you. Like raising children, panic will make you scream obscenities and drink heavily. A panic attack will have you running for the emergency room, stopping to pick out a casket on your way.
1. Panic attack describes a sudden, intense feeling of fear or apprehension that causes physical symptoms.
2. Symptoms include a racing heart beat, sweating, chills, nausea, stomach pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, hyperventilation, lightheadedness and trouble swallowing.
3. Most patients, especially during their first attack, describe an overwhelming feeling that they are going to die. I think I am going to die also, just not imminently. I can imagine this must be pretty scary. Many people call 911 or go to the ER because they think they are having a heart attack. The symptoms are very similar.
4. I am very calm if someone is bleeding all over me, but have been known to fall off the deep end trying to get my kids ready for a party, especially if tights are involved. We all have our triggers. A panic attack is often triggered by nothing. It can come completely out of the blue, like a plane falling from the sky. (Sorry, I’m still not over it.)
5. It is thought that genetics, stress and traumatic events put someone at greater risk for having a panic attack. Great – we are all at risk.
Some people have only 1 or 2 panic attacks in their life. Others are prone to them and require treatment. While they don’t result in physical harm, they are very real and very frightening. Treatments include behavioral therapies, lifestyle changes, and medication. If you are a woman and you are having sudden chest pain, shortness of breath and sweating, DO NOT assume it is a panic attack. Being the strong resilient gender we are, women tend to ignore their cardiac symptoms until it is too late. Even if you have multiple reasons to panic, i.e. layoffs at work, sick parents, having not yet started your book for book club tonight, it still may be a heart attack. Doesn’t lying on a stretcher in the ER sound like a nice mini-vacation? Don’t be a cowgirl!