Panic attacks or anxiety attacks as they are known in psychiatric circles, are a body wide manifestation of sympathetic system. This system is responsible for the making your body ready for 3 Fs- Fright, Fight and Flight.
During panic your adrenal glands pour massive amounts of adrenaline into your circulation causing your heart to race, your airways to narrow, your muscles to twitch, your sweat glands pour out their contents.
The blood is diverted away from the areas where you don’t need them (such as skin) to the places that actually need them such as muscles and brain. This leads to the feeling of unreality and the numbness and tingling that you feel. Thus panic attack symptoms are simulated physiologically by your body under special circumstances.
So, it is normal for all of us to feel such sensations when we are angry, frightened or excited. But suppose you start feeling such panic symptoms without any apparent cause. That is when it is called a panic attack or anxiety attack.
Such an attack can be an intensely frightening experience. In fact panic plays such havoc with your brain that you tend to become intensely disturbed at the prospect of such an attack. When you start to dread such panic attacks then it becomes a panic disorder.
Remember an important Quote – When a psychological state comes on to disturb the normal life of a person it becomes a psychiatric disorder.
Thus if you have panic attacks and you are not afraid of it, then you don’t have a panic disorder.
You remember the lead actor in the recent movie ‘Wanted’ (starring Angelina Jolie). Well, he too had panic attacks (in the film) and he used them to improve his skills. The bad news is that you cannot use the panic attacks to your benefit as was shown in the movie, but you CAN learn to CONTROL them.