The alarm of panic attack | Sunday Observer

The alarm of panic attack

10 January, 2021

Physical well-being and psychological well-being are fundamental factors for a person to lead a healthy life. However, the majority of people give significance and priority only to maintain physical well-being. Lack of awareness is a reason to neglect psychological well-being. Besides, seeking the help of a psychiatrist is a stigma for another group of people. Physical sicknesses occur due to persistent unstable psychological conditions. Even at that point, people intend to cure only physical illness while disregarding psychological issues.

Dr. Nayanananda Kumaranayake, Executive Director at Life Academy Sri Lanka and former Clinical Psychiatrist at Psychiatry Unit, Base Hospital, Kiribathgoda, explained one of the most common psychological illnesses in our society; Panic Disorder.

What is Panic Disorder?

Dr. Kumaranayake explained Panic Disorder as the most severe form of anxiety, the feeling of unease. This kind of mental state can range from mild to severe and includes feelings of worry and fear. Panic is the severed form of anxiety that makes one avoid certain situations due to the fear of triggering another attack. As a result, the patient tends to live a life fearing of being more fearful as he senses it could cause more panic attacks.

Generally, panic attacks are brief. They last less than 10 minutes, although some of the symptoms may persist for a longer time. When panic attacks repeat, the person worries and is in fear of having more episodes. This overall condition is known as Panic Disorder.

How is Panic Disorder caused?

Numerous factors develop the risk of panic attacks. Family history of panic disorder, stressful situations in day-to-day life, severe illness or death of a loved one, traumatic events, such as sexual assault or an accident, major changes in life, such as divorce or the addition of a baby, smoking, excessive caffeine intake, history of childhood physical or sexual abuse can trigger Panic Disorder.


Racing heartbeat (palpitations), shortness of breath, dizziness (vertigo), nausea, lightheadedness, sweating or chills, shaking, feeling of choking, chest pain or tightness, numbness or tingling in your hands or feet, changes in mental state, including a feeling of derealisation (feeling of unreality), depersonalisation (being detached from oneself) and fear that you might die are common symptoms of the disorder.

The symptoms could often pop up for no reason. Women in their late teens or early adulthood are more vulnerable to panic attacks compared to men. However, these symptoms are not proportionate to the level of danger that exists in the environment. Because of the unpredictability of panic attacks, they can affect the everyday life of a person.

Remedies to overcome Panic Disorder

It is advisable to seek medical assistance through a psychiatrist. Depending on the history of the panic disorder, the medications, counselling may differ. Refusal, avoiding, or delaying treatment may increase the vulnerability to more mental and physical illnesses. Therefore, it is mandatory to go for medical support. There are other activities that one could additionally engage in for self-improvement.

Mindfulness meditation helps focus on the present moment while taming the racing thoughts. Clinical psychotherapist Kevon Owen explains that mindfulness meditation is “designed to take you out of your mind.”

  • Practice deep breathing.

Deep breathing increases your oxygen levels and lowers the physiological effects of anxiety on your body. It slows down the heart rate, relaxes your muscles, slows down the rushing thoughts inside and reduces feelings of worry.

  •  Explore guided imagery

Observing soothing images is a powerful way to slow down a racing mind. It’s a strategy to enhance your coping skills, which trigger positive behavioural and physiological responses.

  • Do a body scan

Worrying causes tension in your muscles. A body scan meditation is the best way to analyse your physical being to release the stress you are holding.

  •  Speak it out

Talk to someone who has dealt with the same situation, who can provide much-needed validation and support. Initiate a conversation with a close friend and set up a coffee date to give a moment to vent or talk things through.

  • Keep a worry Journal

A journal where you write down your worries helps analyse and process your feelings. Grab a pen and pen down a few lines before going bed or whenever your mind becomes restless throughout the day.