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What are they?
Panic attacks are defined as an abrupt onset surge of overwhelming anxiety or fear. If panic attacks are left untreated they can lead to panic disorder. Panic attacks can strike out of the blue. Often there is no warning. Most panic attacks last between 20-30 minutes and can reach their peak in 10 minutes but have been seen to last up to an hour long and typically include 4 of the symptoms listed below.

The exact cause can be unclear but a family history of panic attacks can be a factor, as can medical conditions. Major life transitions, deaths, divorce, job loss etc can be triggers. Medical conditions such as hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism, mitral valve prolapse, drug abuse, and medication withdrawl can cause panic attacks as well. Panic attacks are a highly treatable disorder. With treatment symptoms can be eliminated or greatly reduced.

Symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Racing heart or palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Choking feeling
  • Dizzy or lightheaded feeling
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Paresthesia (tingling sensation or numbness)
  • Fear of dying

Treatment Options

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Medications: antidepressants or benzodiazepines