Panic attack is experienced as a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart jumps out of chest and you can’t breathe. You feel dizziness and abdominal pain. You may even feel that you are dying or going crazy. In many cases, panic attacks occur suddenly, without any warning. Often, there are no clear reasons for the attack. They can even occur when you are relaxed or asleep.
The panic attack can be a single phenomenon, but many people experience recurrent episodes. Periodical panic attacks are often caused by a specific situation, such as crossing a bridge or a public performance – especially if this situation has caused a panic attack before. As a rule, this is a situation in which you feel in danger and unable to change anything.
Signs and symptoms of panic usually develop abruptly and reach a peak within 10 minutes. Most panic attacks last from 20 to 30 minutes, and they rarely last more than one hour. A full-scale panic includes a combination of the following symptoms: shortness of breath or hyperventilation; heart palpitations; pain or discomfort in the chest; shiver; feelings of unreality or isolation from your surroundings; sweating; nausea or indigestion; dizziness or fainting; numbness or tingling; flushes of heat or cold; fear of dying, losing control, or fear of going insane.
Although one panic attack can last for a few minutes, this experience can leave lasting traces. If you have panic disorder, recurring panic attacks pose a significant emotional burden. Memory of the intense fear and horror, that you felt during the attack, can negatively affect your self-confidence and cause serious disturbances in your daily life.
This paper describes the causes of panic attacks and panic disorder as well as possible ways of treatment.