A first panic attack often starts without warning during an
ordinary activity such as shopping or walking down the street.
You may become
confused and think you are "going crazy." You may feel like something terrible is going to
You may feel a strong need to leave the area and go to a place that
feels safe, such as your car or home.
You may also have physical symptoms
such as shortness of breath, a pounding heart, or chest pain. It is common to think that you are
having a heart attack and to seek treatment in a hospital emergency
The intensity of
these symptoms usually peaks within 10 minutes.
Mary Avis had been a white-knuckle flyer for years. But on one fateful
flight from Virginia to Boston several years ago, her fear finally took
complete control. Although the weather was clear and the flight was smooth,
"I was sure that if I stood up, the floor would collapse and I'd fall
through," says Avis, now 61, who spent the entire flight motionless and
When the plane landed in Philadelphia to refuel, Avis fled. "My husband
was annoyed, to put it mildly," she...
For many people, the first panic attack may occur a stressful time. It may happen during a life-threatening illness or accident, the
loss of a relationship, or separation from family. A woman may have her first panic
attack after she gives birth.
It is also possible for a
first panic attack to be caused by a drug reaction or a reaction to
nicotine or caffeine. But after the situation that caused the first panic
attack is resolved, attacks may continue.
trouble relating to other people in social settings because of intense feelings
panic attacks can be mild to severe. They may continue for
years, especially if you also have
agoraphobia (avoiding places where you fear another
attack will occur). You may have long periods of time
without panic attacks. And you may have other periods of time when attacks occur
Panic disorder may last a
lifetime, but its symptoms can be controlled with treatment. Most people who have
panic disorder get better with treatment. They are able to get back to a normal
lifestyle. But relapse can occur, especially if treatment is stopped