Panic attacks cause symptoms that make us feel afraid, or that there is something wrong with us that needs medical attention. These fears are based on the physical sensations and are often misleading.
This does not mean that a panic attack is not a serious experience. They are very real and cause real distress.
Fear of what may happen after one of these attacks may exacerbate the symptoms, for example wondering whether you can pass out from a panic attack or not can increase the very same feeling.
A very simple answer to the question is, it is possible to pass out from a panic attack, however, it is very unlikely. This might sound confusing, let us investigate a little more detail to fully understand why it is unlikely that you would pass out.
Understanding what a panic attack is can help give you a good idea about what you are dealing with. Panic attacks are often caused by feelings of anxiety, fear, stress, and a lower state of mental health.
A panic attack often begins with no warning, rather the anxiety symptoms that you may have been feeling in a moment of fear or stress will increase and become physical sensations.
An attack will make the mental concern about anxiety begin to affect the body. These physical symptoms can make you feel like you are going to pass out, or even have a heart attack. Remember that this is highly unlikely.
A panic attack is short term and does not usually last longer than an hour. They are also usually not a common occurrence. If they become a regular occurrence, then you may be experiencing a panic disorder. A panic disorder forms part of the anxiety disorders.
If you believe you might be struggling with a panic disorder, you should visit your doctor to get assistance. A panic disorder is a manageable condition with the correct support and care.
A panic attack can cause many different feelings or physical sensations. You may feel some or all of them, everyone is different and may experience a panic attack in a different way.
A few common symptoms are:
A panic attack can affect your mental health and your physical health negatively if not managed properly.
During a panic attack it is common to feel difficulty breathing and feel dizzy. This is due to several things that happen in your body during an attack. These things increase the feelings that make you think you are going to pass out.
Hyperventilation occurs when there is too much oxygen coming in and not enough carbon dioxide going out. That might sound very scientific, but what it comes down to is this: when you panic, you breathe faster and shallower.
This means the body is flooded with oxygen and not enough carbon dioxide is kept in the body, which makes us feel dizzy and ready to pass out.
Hyperventilation can also cause your blood vessels to constrict, or become tighter, which restricts blood flow. This can be the reason you get cramps, feel shaky, and feel as if you are going to pass out.
During a panic attack your blood pressure can decrease due to the hyperventilation and blood vessel constriction. The drop in blood pressure can cause lightheadedness and feeling faint.
This type of low blood pressure is called orthostatic hypotension. Meaning that the low blood pressure is caused by hyperventilation and changing posture rapidly, because the blood vessels are constricting the regular blood flow.
The hormone adrenaline is our friend when we need to survive, you might know it as the ‘fight or flight’ hormone. When you have an anxiety attack your body believes it is under attack and needs to respond.
It releases adrenaline into the blood stream, this will increase the heart rate, make you feel shaky, and lightheaded.
When you are having a panic attack your brain is focused on survival, which means that areas of the brain for complex thought, and reflection (the frontal lobe) is often shutdown to allow blood to flow to the parts that will assist in survival.
This can also make you feel like you are going to pass out.
A panic attack can be an extremely scary experience, knowing how to manage one is a valuable skill to have. It is also valuable to understand what you can do to limit the amount of panic attacks that you experience.
Things like avoiding anxiety triggers or situations, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and having a support network that you can reach out to can assist limit the number of attacks you may experience.
There are a few things that you can do to help manage an attack when you feel one coming on.
It is clear that breathing has a lot to do with panic attacks and feeling faint. By using your breath, you can help counteract many of the symptoms of a panic attack.
A simple way to use your breath is to slow it down. The trick is to make the exhale longer than the inhale. Try this breathing exercise:
Breathe in for a count of 4 – Hold for a count of 2 – Breathe out for a count of 6.
Repeating this cycle will regulate the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body and allow the blood vessels to relax and let the blood flow normally.
When you are feeling panicked you can check in with your immediate environment. This helps in two ways, firstly it will be a reality check in whether you are safe or under threat.
Secondly, it will allow you move your mind’s focus from survival mode to being centered on the present moment.
Here are two grounding activities:
If you feel that you need support through your panic attacks, or if you feel that you may be experiencing a panic disorder, then therapeutic support may be useful.
Engaging in a therapeutic journey can teach you more skills regarding preventing and managing your attacks and the symptoms that they cause.
There are a variety of approaches that may be used; however, they are all aimed at supporting you towards the least distressing experience of your anxiety.
A therapeutic approach can provide you with strategies that you could share with your own support system to ensure that you always have the right support.
Panic attacks are not likely to cause you to pass out, however, they are still greatly distressing. Physical and mental health is affected negatively before, during, and after a panic attack. There are skills that you can learn to assist you managing your panic attacks.
If you feel that you need support or would like to learn more about how you can manage these feelings, then reach out to One Life Counselling and Coaching.