LIFESTYLE

Panic Attack Symptoms Explained After Prince Harry Said His Heart 'Felt Like A Washing Machine'

You're not alone if you feel these symptoms.

22/06/2017 13:05 BST

Prince Harry has revealed he suffered from panic attacks following his mother’s death, encouraging others to seek support. 

The 32-year-old was speaking in an interview with Forces TV and credited the army with helping him realise he needed help.

“You can tell the signs in people,” he said. “In my case, suit and tie and every single time I was in any room with loads of people which is quite often, just pouring with sweat, heart beating bop, bop, bop, bop - literally like a washing machine - just like ‘oh my god get me out of here now. Oh hang on I can’t get out of here - I’ve got to just hide it’.”

But what exactly is a panic attack and what should you do if you think you’re experiencing one?

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What is a panic attack?

According to the mental health charity Mind, a panic attack is “an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement”.

Attacks tend to last for five to 20 minutes, although some may experience symptoms for up to an hour.

Symptoms of a panic attack can include:

:: A pounding heartbeat

:: Feeling faint

:: Sweating

:: Nausea 

:: Chest pains

:: Feeling unable to breathe

:: Shaky limbs, or feeling like your legs are turning to jelly

:: Feeling like you’re not connected to your body.

What causes panic attacks? 

Different people experience panic attacks for different reasons, but they’re thought to be linked to your body going into “fight” or “flight” mode.

The NHS website explains: “As your body tries to take in more oxygen, your breathing quickens.

“Your body also releases hormones, such as adrenaline, causing your heart to beat faster and your muscles to tense up.”

If you have regular panic attacks, you may be diagnosed with the mental health condition panic disorder by your GP. 

How to cope with a panic attack.

Speaking to the NHS, Professor Paul Salkovskis, professor of clinical psychology and applied science at the University of Bath, said it can help to notice and accept feelings of a panic attack for what they are.

“Panic attacks always pass and the symptoms are not a sign of anything harmful happening. Tell yourself that the symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by anxiety,” he said.

“Ride out the attack. Try to keep doing things. If possible, don’t leave the situation until the anxiety has subsided.

“Confront your fear. If you don’t run away from it, you’re giving yourself a chance to discover that nothing’s going to happen.”

Similarly Barry McDonagh, author of the book DARE, which is about overcoming anxiety and panic attacks, said it can help to remind yourself of any panic attacks you had in the past and acknowledge that you survived them.

“Tell yourself you are excited by this anxious feeling,” he said.

“Fear and excitement are similar states, so flip your fear into excitement.”

McDonagh belives that “running towards panic” and almost encouraging it actually “pops the bubble of fear”, whereas trying to fight panic only makes it worse.

Alternatively No Panic, a UK charity helping people to cope with anxiety disorders, has an online playlist you can listen to if you’re having a panic attack, designed to reassure sufferers and ease symptoms. 

If you experience panic attacks regularly, your GP may refer you for counselling to help identify any underlying issues that may be causing you to experience anxiety.

Useful websites and helplines:
  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk
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