Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder

Panic attacks are brief episodes of extreme fear. They may be mistaken for heart attacks or strokes, but are actually psychological rather than physical. Panic attacks can occur suddenly and usually peak within ten minutes. Most panic attacks end within 20 to 30 minutes.

Some symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of suffocation

Sometimes panic attacks are isolated incidents, but if a person has had at least two panic attacks and lives in fear of having another, they may have panic disorder. A panic attack can happen without an obvious cause, but people with panic disorder may develop phobias related to something they associate with panic attacks, including open spaces, and large crowds.

Panic disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder, and like other forms of anxiety, it is commonly treated with a combination of therapy, medications, and healthy lifestyle changes. Anxiety patients are also encouraged to do breathing exercises, get regular exercise, and to avoid stimulants.

People who experience panic attacks have unexpected sudden episodes of intense fear that last for several minutes or longer. Panic attacks are characterized by a fear of disaster, even when there is no real danger. Many report their panic attack feels like they are having a heart attack. Panic attacks can occur at any time, and many people who suffer from panic attacks worry about the possibility of having another attack.

A person may also have a strong physical reaction during a panic attack. Symptoms may include palpitations, pounding heart, accelerated heart rate, sweating, depersonalization, trembling or shaking, sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, choking, numbness, derealization, and fear of death. 

Panic attacks are scary and debilitating. Sometimes, a person with panic disorder can't carry out everyday routines like going to work or driving. Untreated panic attacks can lower your quality of life because they can lead to other mental health disorders. Panic disorder is usually treated with counseling and/or medication.  

These attacks occur at unpredictable times, often with no apparent trigger. This causes those burdened with panic disorders to worry about the possibility of having another panic attack at any random time. Some who suffer from panic attacks carry their prescribed anti-anxiety medications with them wherever they go. They report that having the medication with them at all times quells their worry about having another panic attack. When they feel a panic attack starting, they take their medicine, which prevents a full-fledged panic attack.