What Are Panic Attacks?



A panic attack is a brief period of overwhelming anxiety or fear. Panic attack intensity goes well beyond normal anxiety and can manifest itself in a number of physical symptoms. People suffering from a panic attack can often fear that they are having a heart attack, unable to breathe or that they are dying.


Symptoms of a Panic Attack:


  • Pounding/Racing Heartbeat

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Feeling of being detached from reality

  • Fear of “being crazy”

  • Sweating

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Nausea

  • Chest pain or discomfort

  • Sense of Terror, impending doom or death


(A panic attack does not necessarily include all of these symptoms)


Facts About Panic Attacks:


  • Panic attacks can seem to occur at random times, or be triggered by specific events such as crowds, driving or stress.


  • Panic attacks can be brief but intense. The symptoms of panic can typically peak within ten minutes and end within 30 minutes. However lingering symptoms can last an hour or more.


  • Panic Disorder can occur when a person has a frequent worry or fear of future panic attacks. It can also occur if a person changes their behaviour in order to avoid future panic attacks.


How are Panic Attacks Treated?


Medication: Medicine can be used as a short term cure for severe cases of panic. The medication does not address the underlying issues that causes panic disorder, it should be accompanied by another form of treatment such as psychotherapy.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: CBT is a common and well supported treatment for panic attacks and panic disorder. It works by allowing an individual to identify and change unhealthy thinking patterns that trigger the attacks. CBT is shown to have long lasting benefits.


Exposure Therapy: During Exposure Therapy, an individual is intentionally exposed to the symptoms of panic in a controlled environment. As exposure continues the symptoms become increasingly familiar and less terrifying to the patient. Exposure Therapy can also involve gradual exposure to feared situations.


Relaxation Techniques: The body's response to relaxation can become improved with practice. Deep breathing, meditation and muscle relaxation can be of use to help combat panic attacks.