What are the Symptoms of a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a surge of intense, overwhelming anxiety. Symptoms come on suddenly and usually peak within ten minutes. With panic, the fight-or-flight system has been triggered, preparing the person for emergency action. The result is both intense anxiety and physiological arousal. Bodily symptoms include rapid heart rate, chest pain, choking, dizziness, sweating, nausea, and trembling. Psychological symptoms include fear of going crazy, fear of dying, and depersonalization or derealization.

How To Stop a Panic Attack: Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques work by redirecting attention from internal to external. Anything systematic that can absorb attention can function as a grounding exercise. When you’re anxious, when a panic attack seems imminent, your mind is totally absorbed into fantasies of threat. Maybe you can’t concentrate well enough to decatastrophize, but you can always detach from your catastrophic fantasies and move your attention onto a completely different subject.

Panic and the Fight or Flight Response

Two areas in the brain are sensitive to the possibility of threat, the cerebral cortex and the amygdala. The cortex is the seat of conscious awareness, logical and rational. The amygdala is primitive and emotional, an early warning system. Panic attacks are not rational. They represent the flight or fight response, generated by your amygdala. The amygdala doesn't listen to reason, it only learns through experience. Exposure therapy literally teaches your amygdala that a situation it detects as threatening is in fact safe, something you cannot learn through avoidance.

Ask Panic to Make it More

I often suggest that clients ask their anxiety to make it more, If that seems absurd, it's because it is. Anxiety is not a thing and cannot be asked, it’s just your own construct. Asking anxiety to do anything is as silly as asking pink to suddenly turn blue. Keep externalizing your anxiety as a thing, and you'll keep regarding it as your enemy. Anxiety is just a construct, and as such, it has only the power that you give to it. Anxious thoughts are just thoughts, and thoughts cannot harm you.