A panic attack creates a sudden onset of fear and loss of control in an individual despite no apparent danger being present. Panic attacks cause very extreme symptoms, which may make a first time sufferer feel like they may be dying. Thankfully, the symptoms tend to decrease after approximately 10-20 minutes. However, there are cases where panic attacks can last longer. The likelihood of experiencing a panic attack rises with increasing levels of stress, traumatic events, and major life changes.
Symptoms of a panic attack may include shortness of breath, hyperventilation, increasing heart rate, chest pain, sweating, shaking, and a feeling of loss of control. Numbness in the arms may be felt, stomach may feel like it is churning, and thoughts may race. The affected person may feel paralyzed to the spot or need to run. The state is often compared to the flight or fight response a person feels when faced with extreme danger, only there is no danger present. The symptoms of a panic attack can be very similar to more serious conditions, like a heart attack. Therefore, it is important to contact your doctor to make sure there are no underlying conditions involved.
Common forms of treatment include using breathing exercises, dietary changes, and attending therapy sessions. There are also prescription medication options available if the panic attacks become unmanageable. Panic attacks can seem terrifying and can cause an individual to fear the return of an attack. If the attacks grow more frequent or the fear impacts day-to-day life, the individual may be experiencing a long-term (chronic) condition called panic disorder.
Although there is no cure for panic attacks, there are many treatment options available to help manage the symptoms. If you or a family member have been diagnosed with this condition, talk to your doctor or mental health professional about the most current treatment options.