Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder

Panic attacks are brief episodes of extreme fear. They may be mistaken for heart attacks or strokes, but are actually caused by psychological issues rather than physical, but they have real physical symptoms. 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
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness or nearly fainting
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of suffocation or choking
  • Fears of dying or going crazy

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. Clients with anxiety are also encouraged to do breathing exercises, get regular exercise, and to avoid stimulants including caffeine.

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