What are panic attacks?
Please also check out this page: Panic Disorder
A panic attack is a sudden and strong feeling of overwhelming fear and apprehension often including one or more of the following: dizziness, shortness of breath, temporary vertigo, feeling of not being able to swallow, palpitation (noticeable or increased heartbeat), sweating, trembling, feelings of extreme temperatures, being convinced that death, going crazy, or loss of control is imminent and chest pains. For more info check wiki panic.
Many people rush to the emergency room or casualty department after their first panic attack convinced they have had a heart attack or a stroke. If you think you have had, or are having a panic attack you should be given a thorough check-up by a medical professional to rule out a physical cause for your symptoms.
Panic attacks themselves are completely harmless but there are two common misperceptions
that regularly do the rounds.
1) You might have a heart attack. Actually a normal adult heart could sustain string palpitations for much much longer than a panic attack can last. There is no evidence that a panic attack does any short or long term damage to the heart. 2) You might faint. While you may feel faint and slightly dizzy during a panic attack it is highly unlikely that you will faint. The reason for this is simple. Fainting is caused generally by a loss of blood pressure, where as in a panic attack blood pressure tends to rise a bit.
Remember panic attacks were designed by god(s)/nature to protect you, they feel so bad because they are trying to make you escape a perceived threat.
In modern medical and psychiatric terms people who suffer from panic attacks
are usually put into one of two categories.
What disorders are associated with panic attacks?
1) “Panic Disorder” is the term used for people who have panic attacks seemingly without cause, coming as it were out of the blue. People are diagnosed with panic disorder if they have had two or more panic attacks or if they have had more than a month of severe worry about suffering from another panic attack 2) Phobia or Agoraphobia. If a panic attack is related to a specific situation then a simple phobia will be diagnosed. Often sufferers of Panic Disorder become afraid of having panic attacks away from home, and begin to avoid going out, going out alone, or going to some places. In these cases agoraphobia is diagnosed.
Remember: A good therapist will ignore labels and treat your personal symptoms as unique.
How common are they?Very common, possibly as much as 10% of people with have some of the above at sometime.
What can be done about them?