Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder - Topic Overview
attack is a sudden, intense fear or
anxiety that may make you short of breath or dizzy or
make your heart pound. You may feel out of control. Some people believe that they
are having a heart attack or are about to die. An attack usually lasts from 5
to 20 minutes. But it may last even longer, up to a few hours. You have the most
anxiety about 10 minutes after the attack starts. If these attacks happen
often, they are called a panic disorder.
Panic attacks can be
scary and so bad that they get in the way of your daily activities. Treatment
can help most people have fewer symptoms or even stop the attacks.
More women than men get panic attacks.
Experts aren't sure what causes panic attacks and panic disorder. But the
body has a natural response when you are stressed or in danger. It speeds up
your heart, makes you breathe faster, and gives you a burst of energy. This is
fight-or-flight response. It gets you ready to either
cope with or run away from danger. A panic attack occurs when this response
happens when there is no danger.
Panic attacks and panic disorder
may be caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals or a family history of panic
disorder. They sometimes happen with no clear cause.
attacks may also be brought on by:
- A health problem such as an overactive
thyroid (hyperthyroidism), or heart or breathing
- Depression or another mood disorder.
- Using too much nicotine or too much caffeine.
Taking certain medicines, such as those used to treat asthma and heart
- Using illegal drugs, such as marijuana or
- Living with high levels of stress for a long time.
You have a higher chance of getting panic disorder if you
have a parent with
Symptoms of a panic attack
- A feeling of intense fear, terror, or
- Trouble breathing or very fast breathing.
- Chest pain or tightness.
- A heartbeat that races or isn't
- Nausea or an upset
- Dizziness and shaking.
- Numbness or
Symptoms of panic disorder may include:
- Repeated panic attacks when there is no
reason for the fight-or-flight response.
- Changing your daily
activities because you worry that you will have another attack.
Some people have a fear of being in crowds, standing in
line, or going into shopping malls. They are afraid of having another panic
attack or of not being able to escape. This problem is called
agoraphobia. It can be so bad for some people that
they never leave their homes.
People who have panic
disorder often have depression at the same time.