A panic attack is a rush of powerful physical and psychological symptoms that are often frightening and appear suddenly for no apparent reason. Usually, panic attacks last between 5 and 20 minutes, and although one may feel like he/she is in serious trouble, they should not cause any physical harm. People suffering from a panic attack often experience an overwhelming sense of unreality and fear, as if they are detached from the world around them.
In addition to these psychological symptoms, one may also experience some physical symptoms, such as:
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
• A choking sensation
• Feeling sick
These physical symptoms are caused by the body going into the fight or flight mode in response to perceived threat. Breathing quickens as the body attempts to take in more oxygen. In addition, the body releases adrenaline, which causes the muscles to tense up and the heart to beat faster.
Individuals with panic disorder experience repeated and sudden attacks of fear that may feel like a heart attack. Panic attacks can occur at any time, which may cause people with this disorder to feel ashamed and discouraged because they cannot perform normal routines such as driving and going to the grocery store. Panic disorder, which often begins in the late teens or early adulthood, can also interfere with work and school. However, everyone who experiences panic attacks will not necessarily develop panic disorder.
Sometimes, panic disorder is hereditary, but no one knows for sure. Some researchers believe that individuals with this disorder often misinterpret harmless sensations and feelings as threats. Symptoms of panic disorder include:
• Intense anxiety about when the next attack will happen
• Sudden and repeated panic attacks
• Avoidance or fear of places where attacks of fear have happened in the past
• A feeling of losing control during an attack
• Physical symptoms, such as racing or pounding heart, breathing problems, sweating, dizziness, cold chill, chest pain, stomach pain, and other symptoms
During a panic attack, slowing down one’s breathing may help in easing other symptoms. One should breathe in deeply through the nose while focusing on remaining calm, and breathe out slowly through the mouth. One should start feeling better as the CO2 level in the blood returns to normal. However, one may feel tired afterwards. People with panic disorder should talk to their doctors about their symptoms. This disorder is usually treated with medication, psychotherapy, or both. Follow us for more information and resources on drug abuse and treatment.