As classified by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), panic disorders are technically under the umbrella of anxiety disorders. Other anxiety disorders include social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and agoraphobia, among other conditions. Over 20 million people in the United States alone suffer some kind of anxiety disorder or another.
Panic disorder is characterized by reoccurring panic attacks that often happen spontaneously and unexpectedly. A panic attack is an intense feeling of irrational fear that lasts over a period of time. Some symptoms of a panic attack may or may not include a pounding heart, chest pains, sweating, difficulty breathing, the fear of going crazy, shaking, cold or hot flashed, the choking sensation, and nausea. One panic attack doe not mean you should be diagnosed with panic disorder, but if this condition occurs a number of times and interrupts your life, you should see a doctor immediately.
Most people experience the unpleasantness of a panic attack at some point or other in their lives. While this may be a scary experience, you should generally not be concerned unless the month following the panic attack leads to constant worry about have another panic attack, constant worry about a condition that could be related to the attack, or major changes in your lifestyle.
When you have a panic attack, even for the first time, see a doctor. Try to clearly think about the symptoms you’ve experienced and note the time and length of the attack. This information will help your doctor find the best treatment options available for you. Often, panic attacks occur simultaneously with other anxiety disorders, so being clear about your experiences will help your doctor to understand your experiences.
Remember, panic attacks are real. While there may be a few cases where people pretend to have attacks to get attention or for other reasons, this is not the norm. If someone around you is experiencing a panic attack, offer your help and call a doctor immediately to get help for the person.
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