When Dorothea Lack was a little girl, she hid under a doctor's desk to avoid a vaccination. Undaunted, the doctor crawled under the desk and vaccinated her then and there. Lack said the incident provoked a fear of doctors that followed her into adulthood. "I didn't feel I could trust them," says Lack, PhD, now a psychologist who performs research on doctor-patient relations.
It's a rare soul who truly enjoys visiting the doctor. But for a significant minority of the population, fear and anxiety...
It is possible to have one panic attack after another in waves for an extended period of time. This can seem like one continuous attack. But if you have continuous symptoms that don't go away within an hour, you probably aren't having a panic attack. You should seek medical care right away.
Symptoms of a panic attack may include:
Rapid breathing (hyperventilation), shortness of breath, or a feeling of choking or being smothered.
Fear that you are going to die, lose control, or "go crazy."
Feelings of being detached from yourself or from reality.
The symptoms of a panic attack can be similar to those of a heart attack. Many people seek emergency medical treatment for a panic attack for this reason. If you have chest pain and other symptoms of a heart attack, get medical treatment right away. For more information, see the topic Chest Problems.
Panic attacks may begin without a trigger. Or they can be linked to certain situations, such as being in large crowds of people in restaurants or stadiums. Sometimes just knowing that you'll be in a certain situation can cause severe anxiety.
People who have panic attacks often learn to avoid situations that they fear will trigger a panic attack or situations where they will not be able to escape easily if a panic attack occurs. If this pattern of avoidance and anxiety is severe, it can become agoraphobia, an intense and irrational fear of being in public places.
Isolating yourself and avoiding social situations can interfere with your ability to work. It can also harm your relationships, especially with your family members and close friends.
Symptoms in children
Panic attacks aren't common in children or younger teens. But children who have panic disorder or panic attacks often have other symptoms in addition to those listed above.
They may be overly afraid of common objects such as bugs.
They may worry too much about monsters or about going to bed alone.
They may refuse to go to school or become unusually upset when they are separated from a parent.
In this article
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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