Panic attacks are an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes. Most panic attacks end within 20 to 30 minutes. They may be mistaken for heart attacks or strokes. During a panic attack a person experiences a variety of cognitive and physical symptoms.
Some symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Feelings of suffocation
- Fear of losing control or "going crazy"
- Fear of dying
Sometimes panic attacks are isolated incidents, but if a person has had at least two panic attacks and lives in fear of having another, they may have panic disorder. A panic attack can happen without an obvious cause, but people with panic disorder may develop phobias related to something they associate with panic attacks, including open spaces, and large crowds.
Panic disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder, and like other forms of anxiety, it is commonly treated with a combination of therapy, medications, and healthy lifestyle changes. Individuals suffering from anxiety are also encouraged to do breathing exercises, get regular exercise, and to avoid stimulants.