Having a panic attack is a unique experience that is defined by the sudden rush of emotion and physical changes that seem to come out of nowhere. A panic attack may last for five minutes or as long as a half-hour, but become very intense within minutes. Symptoms can include a racing heart, chest pains, sweats, shakes, chills, nausea, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, a sense of doom or dying, hot flashes, or headaches. Given the intensity of them, many people begin to develop a fear or anxiety about experiencing another one, which can create a snowball effect or even cause people to avoid going out for fear of having one in public situations.
Although there is no known cause for panic attacks, some research points to genetics, environmental stressors, the experience of traumatic events, and struggles with generalized anxiety. While panic attacks are very difficult to endure and tolerate, they are not life-threatening despite feeling like they are. It is best to seek the help of a psychiatrist and/or psychologist who can help you better understand panic attacks and try to help you figure out the source of them. Often, in the beginning, they seem to come out of the blue, however as things progress they are often triggered by fairly specific situations, events, or ways of thinking. Risk factors for having panic attacks include past trauma, abuse, excess smoking or caffeine use, family history of panic attacks (genetics), or high levels of stressors.
Left untreated panic attacks can worsen and increase in frequency. Many people are at risk to develop more persistent anxiety problems, develop phobias (driving or going out in public), are at risk to self-medicate with substance abuse, or sink into depression resulting from feeling helpless and hopeless. Don’t let one problem evolve into even more problems. Panic attacks can be effectively treated with medication, therapy, or both.
If you experienced a panic attack or continue to be troubled by ongoing recurrences, please contact us so can help you begin the recovery process.