A panic attack is a sudden feeling of strong anxiety, discomfort, fear or terror. These attacks can come from nowhere and develop rapidly, and mostly the reaction is not appropriate for the situation in which the person finds themself at the time. The person often feels impending doom, including a feeling they are going to die. They may have physical symptoms as described below.
Note that there are some medical conditions that have symptoms similar to panic attacks (for example arrhythmias of the heart) so medical help should be sought in the first instance.
A person having a panic attack will have several of the following:
- increased awareness of heart beat, palpitations
- trembling or shaking
- feeling of choking, shortness of breath or smothering
- chest pain or discomfort
- nausea or abdominal distress
- feeling of unreality or feeling detached from oneself or from the surroundings
- feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed or faint
- fear of losing control or going crazy
- fear of dying
- numbness, tingling or pins and needles
- chills or hot flushes.
Left untreated, panic attacks can lead to panic disorder and other problems. They may even cause you to withdraw from normal activities. But panic is treatable – and the sooner you seek help, the better. With treatment, you can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of panic and regain control of your life.
Buteyko Breathing Clinics can teach you how break the cycle of panic attacks. Read about the effects of hyperventilation and how to treat panic or anxiety attacks.