Last updated on July 22, 2022 by

English Documentary on Panic Attack with Transcript & Video

English documentary on panic attack with transcript and video to practice listening and reading comprehension simultaneously and enrich your academic vocabulary in context. Select each word and listen to the selected text to perfect your listening comprehension.

Source of documentary: TED-Ed YouTube Channel

Listening comprehension

Reading comprehension

What is a panic attack?

The body becomes its own corset. Past, present and future exist as a single force. A swing without gravity soars to a terrifying height. The outlines of people and things dissolve.

Countless poets and writers have tried to put words to the experience of a panic attack, a sensation, so overwhelming, many people mistake it for a heart attack, stroke or other life-threatening crises.

Though panic attacks don’t cause long-term physical harm, afterwards, the fear of another attack can limit someone’s daily life and cause more panic attacks.

Frequency of panic attacks

Studies suggest that almost a third of us will experience at least one panic attack in our lives, and whether it’s your first, your hundredth, or you’re witnessing someone else go through one, no one wants to repeat the experience. Even learning about them can be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary because the first step to preventing panic attacks is understanding them.

Mechanism of panic attacks

At its core, a panic attack is an overreaction to the body’s normal physiological response to the perception of danger. This response starts with the amygdala, the brain region involved in processing fear. When the amygdala perceives danger, it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the release of adrenaline.

Adrenaline prompts an increase in the heart and breathing rate to get blood and oxygen to the muscles of the arms and legs. This also sends oxygen to the brain, making it more alert and responsive. During a panic attack, this response is exaggerated well past what would be useful in a dangerous situation, causing a racing heart, heavy breathing or hyperventilation. The changes to blood flow cause lightheadedness and numbness in the hands and feet.

A panic attack usually peaks within 10 minutes. Then the prefrontal cortex takes over from the amygdala and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. This triggers the release of a hormone called acetylcholine that decreases the heart rate and and gradually winds down the panic attack.

What triggers a panic attack?

In a panic attack, the body’s perception of danger is enough to trigger the response we would have to a real threat, and then some. We don’t know for sure why this happens, but sometimes cues in the environment that remind us of traumatic past experience can trigger a panic attack.

Panic attacks can be part of anxiety disorders, like PTSD, social anxiety disorder, OCD, and generalized anxiety disorder. Recurring panic attacks, frequent worry about new attack, and behavioral changes to avoid panic attacks can lead to a diagnosis of a panic disorder.

Treatments for panic attacks

The two main treatments for panic disorder are anti-depressant medication and cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. Both have about a 40% response rate. Though someone who responds to one may not respond to the other. However, anti-depressant medications carry some side effects, and 50% of people relapse when they stop taking them. CBT, meanwhile, is more lasting, with only a 20% relapse rate.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The goal of CBT treatment for panic disorder is to help people learn and practice concrete tools to exert physical, and in turn, mental control over the sensations and thought associated with a panic attack. CBT begins with an explanation of the physiological causes of a panic attack followed by breath and muscle exercises designed to help people consciously control breathing patterns.

Next comes cognitive restructuring, which involves identifying and changing the thoughts that are common during attacks, such as believing you’ll stop breathing, have a heart attack or die, and replacing them with more accurate thoughts.

The next stage of treatment is exposure to the bodily sensations and situations that typically trigger a panic attack. The goal is to change the belief through experience that these sensations and situations are dangerous. Ever after CBT, taking these steps isn’t easy in the grip of an attack, but with practice, these tools can both prevent and de-escalate attacks, and ultimately reduce the hold of a panic on a person’s life.

Outside formal therapy, many panickers find relief from the same beliefs CBT aims to instill, that fear can’t hurt you, but holding on to it will escalate panic. Even if you’ve never had a panic attack, understanding them will help you identify one in yourself or someone else, and recognizing them is the first step in preventing them.

About Dr. Mohammad Hossein Hariri Asl

Dr. Mohammad Hossein Hariri Asl is an English and Persian instructor, researcher, inventor, author, blogger, SEO expert, website developer, and the creator of LELB Society. He's got a PhD in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). Study our guest posting guidelines for authors.

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