Harry talks about panic attacks – why do they happen?

The Duke of Sussex has detailed various instances in which he has suffered panic attacks in his new memoir, Spare.

By the summer of 2013, after the Warrior Games, he was “in trouble,” says Harry, “alternating between bouts of debilitating lethargy and horrific panic attacks.”

Despite years of experience in public speaking and interviewing, he suddenly found himself “unable” to perform these duties.

“Hours before a speech or a public appearance, I was drenched in sweat,” he explains in his tell-all book. “Then, during the event itself, I couldn’t think, my head spinning with fear and fantasies of escape.

“The panic often started with putting on a suit first thing in the morning. Strange – that was my trigger: The suit. As I buttoned my shirt, I felt my blood pressure rise. As I tied my tie, I felt my throat tighten. As I put on the jacket and laced up the elegant shoes, sweat ran down my cheeks and back.”

He later revealed that he was struggling with panic attacks and anxiety to his father, then Prince of Wales, who reportedly said to Harry: “I suppose it’s my fault I should have gotten you the help you need years ago.” you need.”

Harry also recalls that William allegedly teased him on stage after having a panic attack, laughing at him and saying, “Harold! Look at you! You’re soaked.”

What is a panic attack?

“During a panic attack, the body’s autonomic fight-or-flight response takes over,” explains Dr. Lynne Green, chief clinical officer at the mental wellbeing app, Kooth. “This is a stress response that likely evolved from the survival needs of our early ancestors, activating the nervous system to prepare the body for fight or flight.”

The result is a very overwhelming sense of fear, anxiety, or a sense of dread that something terrible is about to happen, along with one or more physical symptoms. “We may feel shortness of breath, chest tightness, tingling fingers or hands, slightly sweaty, dizzy, rapid pulse,” says Stefan Chmelik, integrated healthcare expert and inventor of Sensate’s neural acoustic technology.

How common are they?

“It is estimated that most people will experience at least one of these unexpected attacks at some point in their lives,” says Dr. Andrea Reinecke from the Psychiatric Department at Oxford University.

However, some people might be more prone to panic attacks than others, says Green. “There are many factors that can increase a person’s risk of having panic attacks, including certain medications, traumatic events and memories, substance abuse, and pre-existing health conditions. However, the most important factor is significant stress.”

What are the most common causes of panic attacks?

A trigger could be something like giving a presentation at work, being stuck on crowded public transport, or driving in heavy traffic. Or just hit the peak of overwhelm at the end of a very stressful time.

Green adds: “In situations where there is an obvious danger, [people] They are expected to be afraid of the danger. However, where there is no obvious danger, people are more likely to fear the symptoms themselves – sometimes even believing them to be life-threatening, such as: B. Evidence of an impending heart attack.”

What to do in case of a panic attack?

Since a racing heartbeat is common during a panic attack, it can help to focus on your breathing. “Exhaling is key during a panic attack,” says Chmelik. “Tell yourself, ‘When in doubt, breathe out.’ Exhale and say, “It’s okay, thanks, highly evolved nervous system, for bringing my attention to what you think is a problem. But I see it and it’s okay – you can resign now. I’m not in danger’.”

If you’ve had a panic attack before, you can practice breathing techniques to prepare yourself in case it happens again.

Chmelik says: “If you can practice the art of exhalation [and] Don’t hold your breath when you’re feeling good, OK, or satisfied, it’s easier to apply this to an anxiety situation as your body already knows and remembers how to do this.

When should you seek professional help for panic attacks?

“While panic attacks themselves aren’t life-threatening and usually pass within about 30 minutes, they can lead to serious complications, such as unhelpful behaviors like self-medicating with alcohol to avoid feelings of anxiety that precede the panic,” says Green. “They must always be taken seriously.”

Reinecke advises, “If they keep coming back for over six months and you start worrying about when your next attack will hit, you [could be] on the road to an anxiety disorder that may require treatment.”

dr Jeff Foster, H3 Health’s GP, describes the difference between a one-off attack and a more serious problem: “In true panic disorder, these feelings occur without any trigger and seriously impair your daily functioning. So if you are panicking, for example, because you have an exam, you are moving house, a breakup in a relationship, etc., that is normal. But if it keeps you from expecting to do things you enjoy, or you get them for no reason, then see a doctor.”

What is the treatment for panic attacks?

People who suffer from panic attacks are often concerned, and sometimes even convinced, that their physical symptoms are caused by an illness.

“The first step would be a proper physical exam to give you peace of mind — thyroid, heart, hormones (eg, menopause, birth control pills), etc. can all contribute to this feeling,” says Reinecke.

Once any underlying physical issues have been checked, talk therapy can be very helpful. “Exposure therapy is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT], where the patient learns to react differently to anxiety triggers. For example, in our research we have developed a highly effective single treatment that results in improvements in most of our patients with panic disorder and life-changing improvements in a large number of patients,” says Reinecke.

However, advice and CBT through NHS services is also a very helpful option – ask your GP or see if you can find out more online yourself.

If necessary, medication is another option. Chmelik says: “Your doctor can prescribe medication, such as B. Anti-anxiety or beta-blocker drugs to control the heartbeat, and these can be useful for some people in extreme situations where they otherwise cannot function.”

Addressing certain lifestyle factors can also be beneficial, says Foster: “This specifically means exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet (foods high in sugar and caffeine can make panic worse), having good sleep hygiene, and being social – just by getting together and talking to friends and venting can be extremely beneficial for your mental health.”

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