A panic attack is the sudden onset of fear or discomfort that triggers a physical reaction. Panic attacks often strike abruptly without any real danger or cause. Pounding/fast heartbeat, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, dizziness, tingling in the body, chills or hot flashes are just some of the common symptoms of a panic attack. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) an attack may last only for 15 seconds, but symptoms can continue for about 30 minutes or sometimes hours. It is not uncommon for a person experiencing a panic attack to end up in the emergency room or doctor’s office expecting to hear they are having a heart attack or dying. The symptoms of a panic attack are very real and sometimes traumatizing. The fear of having another attack can be so frightening that it causes individuals to withdraw from their daily life. For example, someone may avoid going to public places where they feel escaping or getting help would be difficult (this person has agoraphobia).
Many people who experience panic attacks feel embarrassed and don’t seek help. If you find yourself in that category it may help to know that MILLIONS of Americans suffer from them. It’s always a good idea to consult with a medical professional about your symptoms. You can learn to manage and overcome panic attacks and regain control of your life.