Panic and Me

Your heart is pounding.

Your hands are trembling.

Your head is spinning.

Everything is louder, brighter and faster than it seemed a few moments ago.

These are just some of the symptoms that can occur during a panic attack, yet they can come in all shapes and sizes, and no two panics are the same. For many people, including students, panic can become a part of daily life, however that does not make it any less terrifying.

As many will be aware, panic attacks are caused by the ‘fight or flight’ response. Put simply, this is when the brain perceives there to be a threat to survival, and subsequently releases hormones into the bloodstream, one of which is adrenaline. As a result, breathing becomes much more frequent, and the symptoms described above emerge.

This was a very beneficial physiological reaction back when we were cave dwellers and woolly mammoths could have potentially threatened our lives, however, as you may have noticed, there aren’t that many woolly mammoths on campus. Today, panic attacks can occur seemingly without trigger, leaving many sufferers feeling confused and debilitated.

British mental health charity, Mind, has suggested that as many as 1 in 4 people in the UK suffer from mental health issues each year. For a significant number of these, anxiety and panic attacks will be the main problem. Although this may appear to be an upsetting statistic, it can also be used to encourage those suffering that they are by no means alone. You may be surprised as to just how many people you know experience panic attacks, but understandably, most do not want to be especially public about this. Although it is completely legitimate to not want everyone you meet to know that you suffer from these issues, if you indeed do suffer from them, breaking the stigma surrounding them does require some honesty. Additionally, in my own experience, speaking up and telling someone when you are experiencing panic, however daunting it may seem, can actually help massively. Knowing that these feelings are no longer trapping you in your mind and that someone is standing with you is empowering. This can also assist in ridding your mind of the shame that is associated with panic. If there’s one thing to take away from this article, it’s this: panic does not make anyone any less brave. If anything, it is more of a courageous act to get through a panic attack, as they can be incredibly alarming.

Despite that panic can impact almost every part of university life, from studying to socialising, it is not impossible to beat it to some extent. If this is something that you are struggling with, it is really important to know where you can get help. The NHS Choices website has some very useful resources regarding panic attacks (http://www.nhs.uk/Video/Pages/panic-attacks-podcast.aspx) as do Mind (http://www.mind.org.uk) and the Mental Health Foundation (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/panic-attacks).

There are also services on campus that can help you, including the Health Centre and wellbeing services. However, the most important thing to know about panic is that it cannot define a person, you are so much more than your fears!