Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee
President, Heart Care Foundation of India
Both rumors and panic reactions are contagious. It just takes one percent of the population to create rumors. Most rumors are not facts. The best way to know whether it’s a rumor or not, is to ask, “Who told you”. The answer invariably will be ‘someone’. Unless somebody has heard it from the horses’ mouth do not believe it. It is a human tendency to add to what one has heard from someone.
Rumors are scientific and are based on the 100th Monkey Phenomenon. Once the target population is sensitized, the rumor spreads like wild fire. In a gathering of 1000 people only 10 persons are required to spread the rumor, and the resultant panic. In a war-like situation, it is easy to spread rumors as the public is sensitized for the same and living in an unknown fear.
Panic attacks are an unexplained and unprovoked fight or flight response. The body suddenly has the physical reaction of a life-threatening situation. Panic attack is usually mistaken (by the sufferer) as a heart attack and can be very frightening. Anxiety can sometimes lead to panic attacks therefore a lot of people with anxiety disorder tend to unfortunately develop panic attacks.
It is an emotion most people experience when they feel they are in danger. The heart rate increases, the muscles tense up, one get a rush of adrenaline and one is ready to fight for the life. This is called the “Fight or Flight” reaction and it gives one the extra strength needed to overcome or escape a dangerous situation.
On the other hand, anxiety disorder is when you have the symptoms but the reason for feeling the “Fight or Flight” reaction is unclear.
A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. It is far more intense than the feeling of being ‘stressed out’ that most people experience. Symptoms of a panic attack include:
*Difficulty in breathing, feeling as though you ‘can’t get enough air’
*Terror that is almost paralyzing
*Trembling, sweating, shaking
*Choking, chest pains
*Hot flashes or sudden chills
*Tingling in fingers or toes (‘pins and needles’).
*Fear that you’re going to go crazy or are about to die
In addition to the above symptoms, a panic attack is marked by the following conditions:
It occurs suddenly, without any proportion to the actual situation; often, in fact, it’s completely unrelated.
It passes off in a few minutes; the body cannot sustain the ‘fight or flight’ response for longer than that. However, repeated attacks can continue to recur for hours.
A panic attack is not dangerous, but it can be terrifying, largely because it feels ‘crazy’ and ‘out of control’. Panic disorder is frightening because of the panic attacks associated with it, and also because if often leads to other complications such as phobias, depression, substance abuse, medical complications, even suicide. Its effects can range from mild word or social impairment to a total inability to face the outside world.
Tips: Be prepared for emergencies. Always keep the first aid kit and a supply of goods and medicines for 1-2 weeks handy than to panic when they are needed.