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:
- Chest pain
- 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.
Panic Attacks Behaviors:
- Unexpected, sudden, debilitating panic symptoms (e.g., shallow breathing, sweating, heart racing or pounding, dizziness, trembling, chest tightness, fear of dying or losing control, nausea) that have occurred repeatedly, resulting in persisting concern about having additional attacks.
- Marked avoidance of activities or environments due to fear of triggering intense panic symptoms, resulting in interference with normal routine.
- Marked fear and avoidance of bodily sensations associated with panic attacks, resulting in interference with normal routine.
- Have to have be accompanied by a "safe person" to be able to do certain activities (e.g., travel, shop).
- Isolate self due to fear of traveling or leaving a "safe environment," such as home.
- Avoid environments from which escape is not readily available (e.g., public transportation, in large groups of people, malls or big stores).
- Agoraphobia may be or not be present.