A panic attack is a sudden and intense feeling of fear or apprehension that occurs in the absence of any actual danger, but can be quite debilitating and even contribute to further anxiety. Panic attacks are characterized by a range of symptoms that can include sweating, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, trembling, choking sensations, and feelings of impending death.
Clearly, panic attacks can be extremely problematic for those who suffer from them. Sometimes, people will become so afraid of having a panic attack in a public place that they begin avoiding the things that trigger their attacks altogether. For example, a person who fears having a panic attack might avoid leaving their house, which can eventually lead to agoraphobia.
While many people experience a panic attack at least once in their lives, recurrent panic attacks might be a sign of panic disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an estimated six million people experience panic disorder in a given year.
However, there are a number of different treatment options that can be effective.
Medications are often used to treat panic disorders and have been shown to be both safe and effective. The pharmacological treatments that are prescribed by doctors and psychiatrists include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Katharina Star, About.com's Guide to Panic Disorder, has more information on the medications used to treat panic attacks.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, can also be highly effective in the treatment of panic attacks. CBT may be used alone, or in conjunction with medications. During CBT, the therapist helps the client identify thought patterns that contribute to panic attacks. Once these harmful thoughts have been identified, the clients can then focus on altering their destructive thoughts and learn to engage in more helpful behaviors.
If you are struggling with panic attacks, I highly recommend checking out the Panic Disorders site here at About.com. The following are just a few of the resources that you might find helpful and informative:
- 5 Things You Should Know About Panic Attacks
- Strategies for Getting Through a Panic Attack
- How Your Diet May Contribute to Panic Attacks
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America also offers information and resources on treatments for panic attacks and panic disorders.