If we were asked to pin point where the most panic attacks occur in the UK, I’m sure that most of us would look to London, or some of the country’s other big and busy cities. So it may come as a surprise to find that Swansea has been ranked number one.
Almost 1 in 10 people in Swansea will have a panic attack at least once a week (which is double the number of residents who suffer attacks in Liverpool and Manchester). What might not be so surprising though, is that young people in particular are more prone to panic disorder.
A country-wide survey led by panic disorder expert David Sinclair revealed that 18% of 18-24 year olds have panic attacks regularly.
Anyone who’s ever had a panic attack before will know that it’s really not something that you ever quite get used to, and you won’t always know when one is going to happen. The survey did find though, that ‘cramped public transport and densely populated offices are key triggers’, and that 46% of people who get panic attacks, get them on the way to work.
The Guardian reported that although panic attacks are ‘not fully understood’, it's believed that the part of the brain that deals with how we experience fear (it’s called the amygdale, in case you were wondering) is more active in those of us who live in super stressful city environments. Makes sense.
Here’s the sciencey bit though: it’s been found that sensitivity to carbon dioxide is pretty common among people who suffer frequent panic attacks. Okay, you won’t necessarily notice when there’s more in the air, but places like overcrowded public transport, stuffy offices and lifts all can have high concentrations of CO2, which could explain why panic attacks occur so frequently in those environments.
You’re probably wondering how to manage these situations, and the good news is that you’re not expected to go about the rest of your life with a CO2 monitor in your bag.
The survey found that 26% of people think that improved airflow and ventilation would be a big help, so don’t underestimate the power of some fresh air. Personally, I find that sitting near a door or window either on my commute or while I’m at work does actually help (even when I don’t expect it to), and just remember to focus on breathing.
I’ll be honest, there’s no magic way to just make panic attacks disappear but there’s so much help available if you ever need a hand dealing with them. Mind have some great resources online to take a look at, and don’t forget that you can always chat to your GP for this sort of thing too.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.