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Panic Attacks: Effects on Physiology and Neurology

Panic Attacks: Effects on Physiology and Neurology

Many people confuse a panic attack with a heart attack. The indications appear similar; however, a panic attack isn’t fatal.

Panic attacks generally subside within a few minutes, but sometimes they can continue for hours, leaving you exhausted afterward. If you experience such attacks, seek online consultation for panic disorders.


File Name: Neck-tie

Alt-Text: An anxious man fixing his necktie


Here are some ways panic attacks affect the body.

Effects on the Body
Anxiety temporarily raises your heart rate and breathing. It also diverts more blood flow where you need it most – the brain. This is the body’s response to facing challenging situations.

Often, people develop anxiety disorders by middle age. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), women are at a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder and other anxiety-related problems than men.

A distressing or high-stress lifestyle can raise the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder. You may develop symptoms right away or over time. You can also have anxiety if you use substances or have other medical conditions.

Cardiovascular System
Anxiety disorders lead to increased heart rate, chest pain, and palpitations. They also increase your likelihood of heart diseases and high blood pressure.

Central Nervous System
If the attack escalates due to circumstances, you may feel nauseous and lightheaded. The constant release of neurochemical can be devastating to your physiological and neurological wellbeing.

Excretory and Digestive Systems
Anxiety causes problems for the excretory and digestive systems too. You may experience diarrhea, stomachache, nausea, and other digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You may also lose your appetite due to a panic attack.

Immune System
A flood of neurochemicals and hormones such as adrenaline are released into your system during a panic attack. This is part of the ‘fight or flight’ response. Your heart rate and breathing may also be temporally raised to deliver more oxygen to your brain.

However, this recurring response can keep your body in an alert state longer, failing to resume its normal functions. This damages your immune system, making you more prone to infections and other illnesses. Lastly, standard vaccines may be ineffective due to high functioning anxiety.


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Alt-Text: A woman in black holding herself during a panic attack

Respiratory System
Symptoms of asthma and other breathing-related issues can aggravate due to anxiety.

Anxiety can cause rapid and shallow breathing.

Effects on the Brain
Initial research suggests that the fear center of the brain can become more active when you experience a panic attack. A recent study concluded that anxiety disorders and panic attacks increase brain activity connected to the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Other studies have found a connection between neurochemicals and panic attacks. Panic attacks and anxiety, in general, may be caused due to an imbalance in the serotonin levels, which can cause mood swings.

What Can You Do?
When experiencing a panic attack, try to take in a deep breath and exhale slowly. Find a comfortable place where you can sit and avoid external stimuli like loud noises.

Focus on breathing slowly, inhaling air for 4 seconds through the nose, holding it in for 2 seconds, and exhaling for 6 seconds from the mouth. Consciously reassure yourself that you are safe and this will pass.

Get help from GetCareMD for your anxiety-related conditions. We offer online consultation for anxiety and advice on how to minimize the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.

For more information visit our website or contact us to make an appointment with our virtual doctors.