Panic Attacks

What happens, where and how to help yourself and your loved ones

Ever felt so overwhelmed you don’t know what to do with yourself? You feel like you’ve lost control, your heart is beating erratically and you’re out of breath? These are signs of a panic attack. This is when someone is experiencing intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions although there’s no real danger afoot.

For most people, they would have one or two panic attacks during their lifetimes and once the stressful situation or problem resolves, it usually stops. Panic attacks aren’t life-threatening but for those who suffer from them, it could significantly affect their quality of life.

A panic attack can happen without any warning – while you’re driving, sleeping or even during a business meeting – and they can be occasional or frequent. Usually, an attack would subside within minutes and afterward, the person might feel worn out. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling of impending doom or danger
  •  Afraid of losing control or death
  •  Pounding heart rate
  •  Sweating
  •  Trembling
  •  Shortness of breath
  •  Chills
  •  Hot flashes
  •  Feeling nauseous
  •  Stomachache
  •  Headache
  •  Dizziness or lightheadedness
  •  Numbness or tingling
  • Feeling detached from reality

An aspect of panic attacks is the intense fear of the next one, so much so that you’d avoid situations which could set one off. As mentioned before, panic attacks are not dangerous, but it is best to seek medical help to help manage the symptoms before they worsen. It is also important to be seen by a doctor because some symptoms may resemble other serious health issues such as a heart attack.

Quotes: Panic attacks aren’t life- threatening but for those who suffer from them, it could significantly affect their quality of life.


The exact causes of panic attacks are not known yet but certain factors play a role such as genetics, major stress, sensitive temperament, and changes in how parts of the brain functions. Other factors include being a woman, family history, traumatic event such as an accident, major changes such as divorce or having a baby, smoking or too much caffeine and a history of childhood physical or sexual abuse.

Although panic attacks aren’t deadly per se, it can affect many aspects of your life.

Complications related to panic attacks include developing phobias of driving or even leaving your home, avoiding social situations, work or school problems, depression, anxiety disorders and other psychiatric disorder, increased risk of suicide, substance abuse and financial difficulties. Some people may develop agoraphobia where you’d avoid situations or places that give you anxiety due to a fear of being unable to escape if you have a panic attack. This could cause some people to become reliant on others in order to get out of the house.

We mentioned financial difficulties before, and this could stem from how panic attacks can affect you at your workplace. If you’re unable to cope with your workload or stress, it could trigger a panic attack. This in turn could impact your productivity and if you do not disclose what you’re going through to your employer, this may seem unprofessional and worst-case scenario, you may lose your job. Speak to your employer or manager about what you’re going through, and work something out.

There’s no surefire way that would prevent panic attacks but there are certain treatments which could help. Exercise could also help as it protects against anxiety. To get to the root of your panic attacks, it is also very helpful to see a psychologist and talk it out.

If you’re feeling helpless and unsure of where to look for help, check out the Malaysian Mental Health Association. Phone number: 03-2780 6803 Facebook: 

References: Mayo Clinic