It is normal to feel anxious and frightened but sometimes this gets so overwhelming that you may have a panic attack, sudden periods of intense fear. Some symptoms may include a thumping heart (palpitations), sweating, shaking, chest or abdominal pain, shortness of breath (to hyperventilate), dizziness, sickness and diarrhoea, numbness, or a feeling that something bad is going to happen. It can happen very suddenly, reaching a peak within about 10 minutes and usually last for up to half an hour leaving you feeling exhausted and tired.
Don’t make light or judge the patient’s terror or fear for feeling scared and acting strangely. Sit with the person, stay calm and speak softly and encourage breathing exercises or a drink of water. Gentle suggestions, don’t tell them what they should do, listen. “No” from the patient means no. Don’t hesitate to call for help if needed or you are unsure.
After surviving a panic attack the patient may seem fine but is usually very afraid that it will happen again. Carers and patients should check with their doctor to be sure that the symptoms are caused by panic and not another medical problem. It’s important your medical team know how you are feeling and that you have experienced a panic attack(s).