Panic attack symptoms are usually confused with heart and anxiety disorders. From my own experience, there is nothing scarier than your first panic attack. It usually starts with extreme trouble breathing, an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety, and a pounding heart beat. First experiences are the worst because you become confused and you start to think that you are having a heart attack, or even worse…that your dying!
In this article, I’m going to clarify the symptoms of a panic attack and how its different from a panic disorder and anxiety attacks.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Panic Attack?
Panic attacks are not the same as your usual reactions to stressful incidents in your life and or your daily fears (fearing something at work, fearing something at school, etc.). Rather, they strike without warning and without any common reason. If you think you have experienced this dreadful condition and you want to know what do panic attacks feel like, then follow the list below. Symptoms of a panic attack include:
- An intense wave of fear
- A great feeling of anxiety or nervousness
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain or a pounding heart beat
- Feeling faint, dizzy or confused
- Feeling like your suffocating
- Tingling or numbing sensation in the fingers and toes
- Sweating, hot flashes, or chills
- Fearing that your going to die
From amongst the list above, a major symptom is the fear of having another panic attack especially if the person is returning to a place where a previous attack has occurred. Most people with panic disorders try to avoid places where they had their episodes. Such fears can be burdensome and have a negative impact of the persons way of life.
How Long do Panic Attacks Last?
Symptoms usually don’t last longer than 10 minutes but can last longer in some people. On average, a panic attack will last between 5 and 10 minutes but in some severe cases, they can last up to 2 hours.
The longer the attacks last the more chance a person will start to hyperventilate. In fact, hyperventilation can be considered a panic attack symptom since about 60% of episodes are followed by hyperventilation which makes the attacks worse.
What is Hyperventilation?
Hyperventilation occurs from over breathing, especially during or after an attack. While it might seem like you cannot breathe, the opposite is true. When you over breath at a rapid rate, your body actually inhales more oxygen than it needs.
While hyperventilating, you may feel:
- Shortness of breath
- Light headed
- Heart palpitations and/or chest pain
- Tingling and/or Numbness
- Dry mouth and/or Thirstiness
- Weakness and/or Fatigue
- Difficulty swallowing
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Panic Disorder?
If the episodes are more frequent or occur on a regular basis, then the person is considered to have a panic disorder, otherwise, if the episodes only occurred once or twice without further complications, then its considered a panic attack. However, those experiencing mild episodes from time to time can start to develop a disorder which causes more repeated episodes if left untreated.
Panic Disorder Symptoms involve the following:
- Suffering from frequent attacks that occur without any known reason
- Always worrying about your next attack
- Avoiding going to places where your previous attacks occurred
- Being mentally effected in your daily life due to the fear of attacks
The signs of a panic disorder may slightly differ based on the person and intensity of the episode but generally speaking, the symptoms outlined in this articles are the typical signs for everyone whose suffering from this unfortunate condition. It is also known that panic disorders are more common in women than in men.
Panic Disorder Diagnosis
There are no specific lab tests for diagnosing a panic disorder, instead the signs and symptoms are used as the determinant factor. If symptoms are present, the doctor will first evaluate your medical history and perform a full physical examination to weave out any potential causes.
After excluding potential physical illnesses, you may be sent to a mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. After a few routine visits to your counselor, more reasons to why panic attacks happen to you may be more apparent. For example, sometimes a huge stressful transition took place in your life that caused great fear and anxiety in your conscious which resulted in a panic attack. Or sometimes, the disorder may be linked to a greater condition such as depression or alcoholism.
What are the Best Medication for Panic Attacks?
There are many antidepressants used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, however, there are also many dangers of using antidepressant drugs, some of which include the worsening of anxiety after consistent use. The best medicine should not pose a risk to your health especially after long term use.
Luckily there are better alternatives as explained in our free help guide where we teach you how to stop panic attacks and about effective natural treatment methods using relaxation techniques and home remedies. For example, using a herb known as St. John wort was found to be even more effective than most anxiety medications.