Panic attacks


General or Other | - Others | Panic attacks (Disease)


Description

Panic attacks are sudden feelings of terror that strike without warning. These episodes can occur at any time, even during sleep.

A person experiencing a panic attack may believe that he or she is having a heart attack or that death is imminent. The fear and terror that a person experiences during a panic attack are not in proportion to the true situation and may be unrelated to what is happening around them.

Most people with panic attacks experience several of the following symptoms: racing heart, feeling weak, faint, or dizzy, tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers, sense of terror, of impending doom or death, feeling sweaty or having chills, chest pains, breathing difficulties, feeling a loss of control.

Causes and Risk factors

The exact cause is not fully known, but a number of factors - including genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental stresses - appear to contribute to its development.

Panic attacks are generally brief, lasting less than ten minutes, although some of the symptoms may persist for a longer time. People who have had one panic attack are at greater risk for having subsequent panic attacks than those who have never experienced a panic attack. When the attacks occur repeatedly, a person is considered to have a condition known as Panic Disorder.

The physical symptoms that occur with panic attacks do not mean there is a physical problem with the heart, chest, etc. The symptoms mainly occur because of an overdrive of nervous impulses from the brain to various parts of the body during a panic attack.

During a panic attack you tend to over-breathe (hyperventilate). If you over-breathe you blow out too much carbon dioxide which changes the acidity in the blood. This can then cause more symptoms such as confusion and cramps, and make palpitations, dizziness, and pins and needles worse. This can make the attack seem even more frightening, and make you over-breathe even more, and so on.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Panic disorder can be effectively treated with a variety of interventions including psychological therapies and medication with the evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy has the longest duration of effect, followed by specific selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

A psychoanalytic approach that identifies actual but dissociated causes of panic reactions may lead to rapid disappearance of symptoms. ...