If you’re prone to moments of panic, you may have all sorts of concerns about what the symptoms or the implications of anxiety and panic mean. Here are a few answers to some of those questions:
Can I faint if I have a panic attack?
No. Fainting only occurs when there is a sudden drop in blood pressure. Anxiety and panic has the opposite effect; it increases blood pressure. So no, you can’t faint as a result of a panic attack.
Why does my stomach churn about?
Some people experience cramping sensations but for others it’s more like butterflies. When relaxed we are in a state of rest-and-digest but when highly aroused (fight-or-flight) certain bodily functions like digestion are put on hold and blood is sent elsewhere in the body. Your cramp or fluttery sensations come about as a result of this.
Why do my fingers tingle?
It’s just another physical response to fight-or-flight. In and of itself there’s nothing to worry about.
What causes my breathing difficulties?
Anxiety sufferers almost always breathe in a rapid shallow fashion. The intercostal muscles between the ribs begin to tense and the expansion of the chest can become affected making breathing more of a labor.
The way around this is to take a long slow lung-filling breath, hold it for say five seconds, then exhale slowly then as you finish, to push out more air than you feel you’ve drawn in.
What if I stop breathing?
You can’t stop breathing. The difficulties you experience come about as a result of shallow rapid breathing and although it may appear that your environment is airless and you may possibly collapse and die this can’t happen.
Breathing is largely outside of our control. We have some influence over our breathing but it is an automatic process.
Why do I stumble and feel I will collapse?
This is very common. Stumbling is almost certainly due to reaching out for something or someone to support you, and for you to feel safer as a result. There is no physical reason why a panic attack should cause you to lose consciousness or collapse.
Why is my eyesight affected?
If you associate movement, flickering or shimmering as a result of panic then it is almost certainly related to anxiety. Very often people will visually fix on an object as a way of trying to stay in control.
This, along with disrupted breathing and muscular tension can lead to visual disturbances, which pass once you relax.
Why can’t I ‘think’ myself out of panic?
It’s because the panic mechanism kicks in before you’re conscious of it. All senses (light, sounds, smells, etc) pass through a part of the ‘old’ brain that evolved to rapidly sense potential dangers. We become aware of the effects later in the process.
Fortunately there are effective ways to treat panic.