You might not know this, but most people have experienced a panic attack at some point. Panic attacks can be very frightening. You might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.

woman looking stressed and upset

Sometimes panic attacks come out of nowhere and for no obvious reason. Other times, they can be a result of a very stressful situation like being in the middle of a crowded store or at work when you are dealing with too many things at once. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA), a panic attack is “the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that peaks in a short time period and includes at least four of the following symptoms”:

  • Pounding heart, or fast heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea 
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dying

Panic attacks are different from other types of anxiety attacks because they reach a peak level of intensity in 10 minutes or less and then begin to fade.

Panic attacks are usually thought of as a symptom of anxiety, but not everyone who has an anxiety disorder suffers from panic attacks. Sometimes people with no history of mental illness experience panic attacks. However, people with a mental health disorder, including PTSD, depression, and substance abuse disorder often suffer from panic attacks.

young woman talking to a mental health counselor

Treatment for panic attacks includes therapy, or medication, or both. It’s important for people who experience panic attacks to get help because repeated attacks can lead to feelings of isolation, or other mental health issues, which can severely limit a person’s ability to function normally and live a full life.

If you are concerned that you are suffering from panic attacks or a panic disorder, please visit your healthcare professional or licensed therapist. For more information on panic attacks and treatment, visit the AADA website

Have a question about Anxiety Disorders or Panic Attacks, or want to speak with a mental health professional? Contact Starting Point at 904.225.8280.