Panic attacks are a sudden feeling of intense and disabling stress or anxiety. They tend to last anywhere between ten minutes and several hours. A single panic attack isn’t dangerous, even if it seems scary at the time. But, what about frequently recurring panic attacks? Could they be a sign of a bigger problem? Keep reading to find out.
The physical symptoms of a panic attack are caused by a response from the body’s sympathetic nervous system. These symptoms are most commonly chest pain, shortness of breath, hot flashes, and dizziness – among others. They are often mistaken for a heart attack by the sufferer, especially if that person is experiencing their first episode.
During a panic attack, the individual may feel as though he or she is losing control. The person may also feel a sense of impending doom or begin to feel detached either from themselves or from reality as a whole.
While panic attacks are sometimes very severe, they tend to peak at around 10 to 20 minutes, with many of the symptoms fading within the hour. Oftentimes, the reason for the panic attack’s occurrence is unclear even to the sufferer. Panic attacks such as this may be a one-time thing, or something that happens on very rare occasions. But, recurring cases of panic attacks could point to the sufferer having a panic disorder.
People suffering from panic disorders have frequent panic attacks. Unlike an occasional acute panic attack, these even more pronounced attacks are often tied to situations that have caused trouble before. The simple fear of having another panic attack in an uncomfortable recurring situation can cause enough anxiety to trigger a panic disorder. Think of it as a vicious circle of sorts. It’s a circle that causes many people to totally avoid previous situations they’ve been in if they have caused a series of attacks.
While the exact cause of panic disorders is unknown, they are still treatable. Most often, they are treated through therapy or with the aid of self-help strategies. These therapy sessions are typically enough to mitigate the problem, but medication may also be used in some circumstances.
Not only that, but learning a bit more about what you’re feeling during a panic attack can help you to feel more relaxed while they occur. Reading a book on anxiety or panic attacks can really help. However, the best course of action is generally to talk to your doctor or a mental health care professional. He or she is always the best choice to help put you on a path to recovery.
Having a single panic attack isn’t a sign of a panic disorder. In fact, it’s typically far from it. On the other hand, an untreated panic disorder can lead to a much larger number of unhealthy panic attacks and possibly even further complications down the line.
Please remember, if you feel like you are suffering from some type of panic disorder, seek help before the issue really starts to have a negative impact on your life.