Having intense fear that comes on suddenly could mean you're having a
panic attack. This sudden fear may come without
warning or without any obvious reason. Or a panic attack may happen when
something reminds you of your trauma.
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During a panic attack, you
may be afraid of dying or afraid of losing control of yourself. It may seem
like things happening around you aren't real. An attack usually lasts from 5 to
20 minutes but may last even longer, up to a few hours. You have the most
anxiety about 10 minutes after the attack starts.
You may have
physical symptoms, including:
A fast or pounding
Dizziness, shaking, or
Stomach pain or
Chills or hot
Feeling like you're choking.
If you've had more than one panic attack, or if you feel
worried about the next time a panic attack will happen, then you may have
panic disorder. Worrying about future panic attacks
can cause stress and interfere with your life. You may try to avoid things that
bring back memories of your traumatic event.
Talk to your doctor or health professional if
you've had panic attacks or if you think you may have panic disorder. You will
work together to find the best way to treat the panic attacks and PTSD.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy or medicine may help you
have less fear. This can be used to treat both panic attacks and PTSD.
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, you learn relaxation techniques that can
help you cope with the physical symptoms of panic attacks. This therapy helps
you understand how your thoughts and your reaction to your memories cause you
to feel stress. You may do "exposure" exercises in which you focus on stressful
memories until you can overcome your fearful reaction.
Antidepressants and other medicines also are used to treat panic
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
January 09, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this