Panic Attacks

A panic attack is a reaction to an alarm, a sudden rush of intense fear. The alarm does not need to be real in order to have this response.  The physical symptoms of a panic attack are extremely uncomfortable, and thus may be mistaken for a medical condition.

Common Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath
  • Smothering feeling
  • Feeling faint
  • Dizziness
  • Racing or pounding heart
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Choking sensation
  • Nausea
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fears of going crazy
  • Feeling detached, or things seem “unreal”

In a panic attack these symptoms are not the result of a medical problem, but you may find yourself at the doctor's office or emergency room to have the symptoms checked before the panic attack diagnosis is determined.

Features of Panic Attacks

Typically, panic attacks are marked by a sudden onset of fear lasting one to ten minutes. They may also cause a strong urge to escape and get to safety. In the beginning, attacks have no obvious cause. Over time, connections with specific situations start to become apparent.

Am I strange for having these attacks?

It is estimated that 2%-6% of the population may suffer from panic attacks. You are not alone.

Panic attacks can appear as early as ten years of age. On average, people who reach out for help with panic attacks tend to be in their mid-thirties. Moreover, women have a higher incidence of reporting panic attacks than do men.

What Causes Panic Disorder?

Most people can relate the first panic attack to a stressful event. This can be a positive or negative life event. Having a child, moving, getting married or a death of someone close are all possible stresses.

Sometimes certain aspects may make people more prone to such attacks. Often several members of the same family will have panic attacks. You may be susceptible due to some biological vulnerability in the family combined with psychological factors.

Worry about panic attacks can lead to more panic attacks!

Treatment Options

Behavior therapy is extremely helpful for treating panic disorder. Therapy is sometimes combined with medication to produce outstanding relief.

Behavior therapy can teach you the following:

  • How to get rid of self-defeating thoughts
  • Coping mechanisms
  • A way to feel less scared
  • A new way of acting
  • Tools to lesson the symptoms
  • Replace unhealthy responses with healthy living

Panic attacks are very treatable. You can get relief. Don't hesitate to get the help you need.


© 2006 All rights reserved. |  Last revised by R. Cohen on January 21, 2006.