Fear of fear: Panic attacks: What the sudden fear of death feels like - and what helps against it

"Suddenly your heart is racing, you're having trouble breathing and there's pressure on your chest, your hands are shaking, it's cold and hot at the same time, your limbs are going numb and you're gasping for breath.

Fear of fear: Panic attacks: What the sudden fear of death feels like - and what helps against it

"Suddenly your heart is racing, you're having trouble breathing and there's pressure on your chest, your hands are shaking, it's cold and hot at the same time, your limbs are going numb and you're gasping for breath. At that moment you think you're about to die. And Then in the next moment everything is suddenly fine again." This is what it sounds like when the influencer Kiki* describes what a panic attack feels like in an interview with stern.

Amira Pocher, Jonah Hill, Selena Gomez and Ryan Reynolds – they all suffer from panic attacks similar to 24-year-old Kiki from Hamburg. Overall, one in five adults will experience a panic attack at least once in their lifetime, usually in their twenties for the first time. Each of you will probably experience it in your own unique way, because panic affects each of us differently.

The most common physical symptoms of a panic attack include racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath to the point of shortness of breath or the feeling of suffocation, chest pain, tightness in the chest, hot flashes, chills, dizziness, nausea, trembling.

On a psychological level, a panic attack is often associated with a feeling of loss of control. Those affected are so overwhelmed by the physical reaction that they mentally become more and more afraid. The disproportionate and mostly unforeseen fear reaction makes some people feel alien or strange; fear of death often also plays a role.

From zero to one hundred: Your panic attack often comes out of nowhere. This can happen while shopping at the weekend, going to the cinema with friends or just before we head to the altar. But that's what makes the whole thing so unpredictable.

Because the only common denominator is uncertainty, which we don't even have to be aware of. And an average duration of ten to thirty minutes. Sometimes certain places, sounds or situations trigger old feelings in our subconscious, which then lead to panic.

Once our fear has gained momentum, it is almost impossible to stop. Our body releases the stress hormone adrenaline, the heartbeat accelerates, the muscles tense - which causes pressure in the chest. And then the head starts working.

Because our body makes us think of a dangerous situation, our brain looks for reasons for it. And as the saying goes: he who searches will find. And so the vicious circle of fear of fear arises.

In principle, such a panic attack can affect anyone. And yet there are risk factors that promote the spiral of anxiety. For example, it is more likely to spontaneously panic if we have been stressed for a long time, are suffering from unresolved conflicts or have ignored warning signs such as inner restlessness, sleep disorders or cardiac arrhythmias.

If it is not just a single panic attack, but you suffer from it regularly, then it is a so-called panic disorder. This affects around two percent of Germans. Anxiety disorders in general are considered to be the most common mental illness - around twelve million people in Germany suffer from a corresponding clinical picture.

There are several risk factors for panic disorder. It is assumed, for example, that people with stressful childhood experiences and stressful phases of life are more likely to develop a corresponding illness.

Apart from that, factors such as genetic predisposition and hormonal imbalance also play a role in the development of anxiety disorders.

Recent medical studies also indicate that people with panic disorder are particularly sensitive about their bodies. This means that they perceive their heartbeat more intensely and therefore react more quickly if it changes. The result: They interpret the increased pulse as a sign of a problem in the body and react to it with fear - and the vicious circle begins.

Let's summarize: Panic attacks cause a lot of suffering - usually only for a comparatively short time, but sometimes for a long time. Anyone who has ever had a panic usually tends to avoid similar situations or places in the future. This is exactly the wrong way to deal with panic attacks. So that you are prepared if the worst comes to the worst, we have a few more useful coping strategies for you.

The first rule is also the most difficult: stay calm. Even if your whole body is on alert and would like to flee, you shouldn't do that. Better: Take a deep breath and try to realize: My life is not in danger, everything is fine. This doesn't mean you should suppress the panic. On the contrary: allow the fear – knowing that it will go away again.

The Hamburg influencer Kiki has discovered another strategy for dealing with her panic attacks: "I always get help when I have a panic attack because I can't manage it on my own. Then my friend comes from work or a good one Girlfriend over." So don't go through the panic alone, but dare to ask for support.

Once the worst is over, exercise and distraction can help you get through the aftermath of the panic attack. And exercise is also ideal for prevention - because it allows your body to get used to an increased heart rate and no longer panics so quickly due to a faster heartbeat. And if nothing really helps: call an emergency doctor - sometimes the specialist staff can defuse the situation over the phone.

If you regularly suffer from panic attacks, a healthy and conscious lifestyle can help. Yes, that also means avoiding substances such as alcohol, nicotine and caffeine as much as possible - because they can increase anxiety. You should also eat healthy and get enough sleep. Psychotherapy can also help you deal with anxiety symptoms.

A real game changer: the emergency kit. This method actually comes from behavioral therapy for people with depression or borderlines, but can also help with panic attacks. To do this, pack a small box or bag with items that trigger something positive in you.

This could be a vacation photo, a scented ribbon or a specific song. The main thing is that it makes you happy. When panic sets in, you can fall back on this box and literally "hold on" to the beautiful things in your life.

Source: AOK, NetDoktor

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