Panic attacks can occur at any time, even during sleep. An attack generally peaks within 10 minutes, but some symptoms may last much longer.

Once someone has had a panic attack, for example, while driving, shopping in a crowded store, or riding in an elevator, he or she may develop irrational fears, called phobias, about these situations and begin to avoid them.

Eventually, the pattern of avoidance and level of anxiety about another attack may reach the point where the individual with panic disorder may be unable to drive or even step out of the house. At this stage, the person is said to have panic disorder with agoraphobia.

Thus, panic disorder can have as serious an impact on a person's daily life as other major illnesses, unless the individual receives effective treatment.

What are the symptoms of a panic attack?
As described above, the symptoms of a panic attack appear suddenly, without any apparent cause.

They may include:

  • Racing or pounding heartbeat
  • Chest pains
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, nausea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands
  • Flushes or chills
  • Dreamlike sensations or perceptual distortions
  • Terror - a sense that something unimaginably horrible is about to occur and one is powerless to prevent it
  • Fear of losing control and doing something embarrassing
  • Fear of dying

A panic attack typically lasts for several minutes and is one of the most distressing conditions that a person can experience. Most who have one attack will have others. When someone has repeated attacks, or feels severe anxiety about having another attack, he or she is said to have panic disorder.

What happens during a panic attack?
How your body may react:

  • breathlessness or breathing fast
  • very rapid heartbeat
  • pains in the chest
  • irregular heartbeat
  • ringing in the ears
  • feeling faint or dizzy
  • tingling or numbness
  • hot or cold flushes
  • feeling sick
  • needing to use the toilet
  • perspiring
  • choking feeling

How you may feel:

  • absolutely terrified
  • that the world is going to end
  • that you are going to die
  • 'unreal' or cut off from the world
  • that you are going mad
  • a sense of impending doom 

Panic Attacks

S.M.D Counselling & Psychotherapy Services

in Newport, South Wales