Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, numbness, or a feeling that something bad is going to happen. The maximum degree of symptoms occurs within minutes. Typically they last for about 30 minutes but the duration can vary from seconds to hours. There may be a fear of losing control or chest pain. Panic attacks themselves are not dangerous physically.
Panic attacks can occur due to a number of disorders including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, drug use disorder, depression, and medical problems. They can either be triggered or occur unexpectedly. Smoking, caffeine, and psychological stress increase the risk of having a panic attack. Before diagnosis, conditions that produce similar symptoms should be ruled out, such as hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, heart disease, lung disease, and drug use.
Treatment of panic attacks should be directed at the underlying cause. In those with frequent attacks, counselling or medications may be used. Breathing training and muscle relaxation techniques may also help. Those affected are at a higher risk of suicide.
Shortness of breath and chest pain are the predominant symptoms. People experiencing a panic attack may incorrectly attribute them to a heart attack and thus seek treatment in an emergency room. Because chest pain and shortness of breath are hallmark symptoms of cardiovascular illnesses, including unstable angina and myocardial infarction (heart attack), a diagnosis of exclusion (ruling out other conditions) must be performed before diagnosing a panic attack. It is especially important to do this for people whose mental health and heart health statuses are unknown. This can be done using an electrocardiogram and mental health assessments.
Panic attacks are distinguished from other forms of anxiety by their intensity and their sudden, episodic nature. They are often experienced in conjunction with anxiety disorders and other psychological conditions, although panic attacks are not generally indicative of a mental disorder.
- What does panic a attack usually manifest?
- How long does a normal panic attack last?
- How do people with panic attacks normally behave?
- What makes a panic attack dangerous?
- What are cardiovascular illnesses?