What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.

Many people have just one or two panic attacks in their lifetimes, and the problem goes away, perhaps when a stressful situation ends. But if you’ve had frequent panic attacks, unexpected panic attacks and spent long periods in constant fear of another attack, you may have a condition called panic disorder.

What are the symptoms of panic?

Panic attacks have many variations, but panic symptoms usually peak within minutes. You may feel fatigued and worn out after a panic attack subsides. You may have morning panic attacks, nocturnal panic attacks or just when you are driving home in the middle of the day. Panic attacks typically include some of these signs or panic symptoms:

  • Sense of impending doom or danger
  • Fear of loss of control or death
  • Rapid, pounding heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Feeling of unreality or detachment

One of the worst things about panic attacks is the intense fear that you’ll have another one. You may fear having panic attacks so much that you avoid certain situations where they may occur.

How is panic treated?

Your Remedy provider will determine if you have panic attacks, panic disorder or another condition, such as heart or thyroid problems, with symptoms that resemble panic attacks. To help pinpoint a diagnosis, you may have:

  • A complete physical exam
  • Blood tests to check your thyroid and other possible conditions and tests on your heart, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • A psychological evaluation to talk about your symptoms, fears or concerns, stressful situations, relationship problems, situations you may be avoiding, and family history

Following a thorough psychiatric evaluation, a Remedy psychiatric provider will create an individualized treatment plan for each patient with panic as every patient has a unique experience and specific needs to be addressed. The prescribed treatment plan will depend on the patient, the severity of the disorder, and how he or she is currently responding to therapy or medication.