It comes on suddenly when I am sitting at a café with my husband. What starts as a sweet celebration ends in a trip to the emergency room. As my husband rambles on about the menu, the walls start to close in on me. I start sweating profusely. My heart pounds so fast and hard, I think it might burst. There’s a monster scratching the lining of my stomach with its claws, and, despite the fact that I’ve been looking forward to dining at this restaurant, there is no way I could eat a thing without hurling. What is going on with me? Am I losing my mind? I reach across the table and squeeze my husband’s wrist to shut him up. Then I mouth, “Help me!” After ending up in the emergency room and having a battery of tests, my doctor explains that I have had a panic attack.
I am in good company. More than 19 million Americans, between the ages of 18 and 54, suffer from anxiety and panic disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, women are twice as likely to suffer from panic disorders. (Gee, that’s a no brainer when you consider all we have to do compared to our male counterparts).
HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S PANIC?
A panic attack is your body on fear. The feeling usually comes out of the blue, without warning, so you could be hanging out in a café with your husband, or riding in a taxi, or at your daughter’s ballet recital, when it strikes. Common symptoms may include:
• chest pain, racing heart
• feeling like you are losing it
• sweating, shaking or trembling
• nausea, dizziness
If you have experienced a panic attack, you’ll want to see a doctor to rule out harmful conditions, such as a heart attack. A panic attack, which usually lasts no more than a half hour, can be controlled with drugs and behavioral therapies. There are relaxation techniques to get you through it with flying colors.
The author has written for Health Monitor magazine and is the author of The Busy Mom's Book of Preschool Activities (Sterling).