A panic attack is a period of intense fear or apprehension of sudden onset accompanied by cognitive or bodily related symptoms.
The duration of an attack can be minutes to hours, begins abruptly and out of the blue, may peak within 10-20 minutes, and some people have experienced attacks which unfortunately last for hours or may experience attacks consecutively.
Symptoms of a panic attack include:
Impending Doom or Danger
Rapid Heart Rate
Shortness of Breath
Fear of Dying
Tightness in Throat and Chest
Fear of Losing Control
Feelings of Unreality
Changes in Vision
During a panic attack, the body is in a "flight or flight" mode without there being any real or perceived danger, but to the victim of a panic attack the experience is indeed a very real and terrifying one.
A person is unaware of when an attack is going to strike as it comes out of the blue and progresses through phases very quickly.
An episode of panic will vary from person to person with varying degrees of severity and with different degrees of symptoms. Most times an episode will subside and decrease in severity within 15-30 minutes, however the duration of an attack can vary from person to person.
A panic attack can occur at any time (can even occur in a person's sleep) and in any location which sometimes adds more to a person's anxiety.
After the panic episode one will usually feel a warm sense of relief that it is over but with remaining symptoms such as exhaustion, chills and/or trembling.
Panic attacks in and of themselves are not dangerous but to the person experiencing one it may seem that there are many alarming things going on which may prompt one to seek medical intervention as the symptoms can become so severe.
The response from the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) creates symptoms that are experienced; such as dizziness, shortness of breath and racing heartbeat, This causes a feeling of desperation in the person experiencing the panic attack.
It is not completely understood what may be the contributing factors to someone being prone to such anxiety and panic, but there are many theories such as biological causes, phobias, chronic and/or serious illness,
Having repeated attacks occurring very frequently and at regular intervals can progress to what is termed "panic attack disorder."
This can lead to many other symptoms and behaviors that can be detrimental to a person's quality of life and have lasting consequences.
There is help available for people seeking treatment to understand and better manage their symptoms through various channels.
This includes cognitive therapies (changing thought patterns which can aid in reducing symptoms) and behavioral therapies (changing behavior in relation to learning how to better deal with an episode), breathing exercises as well as medication therapy.
Herbal and natural remedies are also effective at lessening panic attacks and decreasing the likelihood of them happening again. Essential oils, herbs like lavender and lemon balm and other remedies that calm the nervous system go a long ways to reduce panic attacks.
Dealing with panic attacks and/ or panic attack disorder can be a very frustrating anxiety condition to live with, but once it is better understood and managed a person's quality of life is greatly improved.