Panic episodes can feel like lots of different things – in fact, you might not know that you've just had one. Although people can have 'sweating and racing heart' type symptoms, other people can feel a strange sense of disassociation, as though they have just jumped into their own body.
The main point though is that you can quickly feel better. And you're also not alone. If you start talking to friends about your experiences, you'll be surprised by how many seemingly cool, calm and collected people say 'me too!'
40 million people in the US alone have some kind of anxiety disorder
Nothing terrible! Having a panic attack can feel like something is majorly wrong with you - that you are having a heart attack or going mad, but you're not. You're fine.
This is important so I'll say it again - you're fine.
You're extremely unlikely to do yourself major physical damage by having a panic attack. And it definitely isn't a sign that you are going crazy.
You have a receptor in your throat that constantly monitors CO2 levels. When these are elevated for some reason, perhaps because you are in a place with high CO2 levels like elevators, then this can trigger a panic response. Scientific research has shown that some people have a lower tolerance to high CO2 levels. If you are one of these people, then you are more likely to have a panic episode.
In most cases, you panic because you have a low tolerance for CO2, which is why most panic attacks take place in enclosed spaces. However, there are secondary triggers such as adrenalin (which you might inadvertently release into your system when you are tired, traumatised or stressed) as well as falling progesterone levels in premenstrual women. These can all make a panic attack more likely in people who are already sensitive to CO2 levels.Read more about the science behind bcalm BUY BCALM More information for clinicians
Simply knowing that panic episodes are mainly a physiological response to CO2 levels should help. There is nothing majorly wrong inside your head, you're fine, and you will continue to be fine. Our emotional reaction to panic anxiety makes us to feel awful only when we think we are the odd one out, that we can't find a way out, or that it's all somehow in our own head. Avoid this way of thinking and see if you can say to yourself: "I know what is happening to me - and I can counter it".
You won't have a panic episode each time you are in an area of high CO2 concentration. Or even ever again. You are just slightly more likely to have an issue than someone who has a higher tolerance - that's all. If you are in an area of high CO2 concentration, like a lift, on public transport or in a small, stuffy room, then keep calm and continue with what you're doing.
If you do start to feel initial signs that you are having a panic episode then reach for bcalm to give you a helping hand. There's no point toughing things out when you don't have to. Within 6 or 7 breaths bcalm will have lowered the CO2 levels in your airway, sending a message to your brain: "It's okay again, let's relax."BUY BCALM
We appreciate you might have lots of questions about panic episodes, particularly if you have only just had one or you're confused by the conflicting information available on the subject. We try and answer some of your main questions here.
CO2 is not the only trigger for attacks, although it is usually the most significant. Adrenalin can also be a trigger, whether it is injected into your body by a dentist to numb your mouth or your body releases it from your adrenal glands due to a fright or worry or pressure. If you are a premenstrual woman with abrupt falling progesterone, this can also be a trigger. However, CO2 is usually the major factor behind panic episodes and may be an important factor in anxiety generally.
Like diabetes mellitus, some diseases occur for the first time at certain ages. Similarly, there is a peak onset of people who develop panic disorder aged 26. We do not know why at this stage, although we're working to find out.
No. Although we know that there are certain physical factors that trigger panic episodes, and that some people are more sensitive to these triggers than others, the research does not suggest that you will be susceptible to these triggers all your life. Enjoy your life and use bcalm when you need to.
You should see a medical doctor. The doctor can then rule out other causes (in a very few cases, panic-like symptoms can mean something else) and help you make a decision about possible treatments.