What are Panic Attacks?

What are Panic Attacks?

anxiety counselling galway

Panic Attacks are a very common experience for those who experience anxiety or stress and most importantly are not harmful.

The DSM5 is a guide for clinicians to make diagnosis for certain conditions. Here is the definition for Panic Attacks.

Panic attacks are experienced as a sudden sense of fear and dread plus four or more of the following mental, emotional, and physical symptoms:

  • Heart palpitations or accelerated heart rate
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or smothering sensations
  • Feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal pain
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Derealization and/or depersonalization
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Feelings of numbness or tingling sensations 


Having worked with many clients who have anxiety and panic everyone’s experience is different. Everyone’s body is made up differently hence my experience of this may be different to yours. This does not mean you are not having a panic attack it means your body is reacting differently. If you have had a panic attack it may have lasted a few minutes or up to a few hours this is a very personal experience. In the aftermath of panic, you may feel drained of energy.

Panic attacks are caused by chronic stress or high levels of anxiety. Panic Attacks occur due to your body going into the fight or flight response. This response is an innate response to danger or threat. At some point prior to a panic attack whether conscious or unconscious you felt under threat or in danger. The response is activated, and you begin to feel the symptoms.

This fight or flight response causes adrenaline and cortisol to flow around your body and this is when symptoms like chest pain, racing heart dizziness nausea come into play. These symptoms are not exclusive to this response but are the most common symptoms I have encountered in my work with panic attacks.

Panic attacks can happen expectedly or unexpectedly. Expected panic attacks are ones in which people would anticipate panic. Unexpected panic attacks can be difficult to comprehend, and you can experience this even when you feel relaxed. People who experience their first panic attacks can often present at A&E thinking they are having a heart attack. Panic attacks are very real experiences and can be very difficult and debilitating.


Along with the physical symptoms thoughts may include:

“I need to leave”

“I am dying”

“I am going crazy”

“This is out of control”

“I thought it would never end”

“It felt longer than that”

“I thought I was going to die”


These are the most common that I hear in my office when people attend for counselling for anxiety or panic attacks.


After the panic attack you may becoming increasingly worried that you will have another panic attack, if this is consistent for you and especially if you have been experiencing panic for 6 months or more, I would recommend you seek help from a therapist that specialises in anxiety and or your GP.


Anxiety and Panic are very easily managed with Counselling and Psychotherapy, CBT and if needed medication can help in combination with Counselling or Psychotherapy. I integrate many therapies and offer an individualised service around anxiety and panic. People suffer in silence and it really is not necessary it is a common experience and I can help you find your peace.




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Anxiety and Panic Counselling Galway