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A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning.

It can last a few minutes to several hours, with the first 10 minutes being the most severe. Symptoms of a panic attack can feel like a heart attack, which is why sufferers may end up in an emergency medical facility with complaints of chest pains. Other sensations include shortness of breath, pounding heart, dizziness, shaking, chills, and feeling like you’re losing control of your body, going crazy, or dying. The first attack often triggers subsequent attacks. Multiple panic attacks become panic disorder as a result of the individual learning to be afraid of the physical symptoms themselves. Children often exhibit panic attacks as extreme crying spells or temper tantrums. Agoraphobia develops when the sufferer continuously avoids places or situations where escape would be difficult if a panic attack occurs. One out of every 75 people will experience a panic attack at some time in their lives.

Associated Features

  • Palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling/Shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Derealization or Depersonalization
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dying
  • Tingling in fingers or toes (“pins & needles”)
  • Sudden chills or hot flashes

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