Panic Attacks

A panic attack is a sudden feeling of anxiety and fear. The Heart beats fast, there is difficulty breathing. You may even feel like you’re going to die or go crazy. Failure to treat panic attacks can lead to a panic disorder. Panic Attacks can cause a major limitation on the quality of a person´s of life.

Panic is a physical phenomenon of reaction to the emotion of Fear, caused by the release of several hormones in the blood by the adrenal glands, namely adrenaline.


Understanding Panic Attacks

In many cases, panic attacks come on suddenly without any warning. Often, there is no obvious reason for the attack. They may even occur when you are resting or sleeping.

A panic attack can be a unique occurrence, but many people experience repeated episodes. Recurring panic attacks are often triggered by a specific situation such as crossing a bridge or talking in public, especially if this situation has already caused a panic attack previously.

Signs and Symptoms of a Panic Attack

Panic attacks often strike when you are away from home, but can happen anywhere and anytime. You can have one while you’re in a mall, walking on the street, driving in your car, or sitting on the couch at home.

The signs and symptoms of a panic attack develop abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. Most panic attacks end within 20 to 30 minutes, and they rarely last for more than an hour.


A panic attack includes a combination of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Heart palpitations or a very fast heart beat
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Tremor
  • Lack of breath
  • Nausea or stomach pain
  • Feeling dizzy or weak
  • Feeling numb or tingling
  • Hot or cold sweats
  • Fear of dying, losing control or going mad


Causes of Panic Attacks

Although the exact causes of panic attacks are not clear, the tendency to have panic attacks often originates in family dynamics. There seems to be a connection to life’s great transitions, such as going to college, getting into a new job, or marrying and having a child. Intense stress such as a loved one’s death, divorce or job loss can also trigger a panic attack.

Panic attacks can also be caused by medical conditions and other physical causes. If you are suffering from panic symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor to rule out the following possibilities:

  • Hyperthyroidism (hyperactivity of the thyroid gland)
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Use of stimulants (amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine)
  • Weaning medication


How to Treat Panic Attacks:

The Heart and the Kidneys in Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the panic crisis reflects a disconnection between the heart and kidney organs. There is a blockage in the region of the solar plexus that does not allow the chi (energy that goes through the body) to descend, hence there are many symptoms in the chest region as heart beat fast feeling of pressure and sometimes pain. The organ of the heart in TCM is closely related to emotions. The kidney organ in TCM in turn is linked to the emotion of fear that is the characteristic emotion of panic attacks.

Normally, it is attempted to normalize the energy flow with acupuncture so that the energy does not block in the region of the center to cause such attacks. Also used are some plants with soothing effects to lessen anxiety that is often inherent to the condition and that more easily triggers panic attacks. Thus the panic attacks are achieved or treated in a natural way.


The Adrenal Glands

Physiologically there is an imbalance in the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are responsible for many functions in the body and one of them is the release of adrenaline a hormone that is responsible for the panic sensation that should only be released in a dangerous situation. Often due to the high stress that our bodies and minds are subject these glands fail to respond adequately to the stimulus of danger, and they respond in a wrong way to various external stimuli without justifiable reason. In therapy important advise about herbs and techniques that can help to improve the functioning of the Suprarrenals is imperative.



In patients with panic attacks it is very common to see that blood sugar levels are in disharmony, that is, the blood sugar levels oscillate due to a poor metabolism of the sugars, this can cause many symptoms of anxiety and others that in turn help to Trigger panic attacks. Once hypoglycemia is treated the crises decrease considerably.

If you suffer from panic attacks you should seek help with qualified therapists, this pathology can be treated quite successfully with proper therapy.

Article written by Sérgio Caroço, ND, BSc (honours) TCM: Acupuncture.

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