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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Ibelema, MD

What Is a Panic Attack?

"Maria " is feeling anxious, short of breath and feels like her heart is "going past". "Maria" is so concerned with how she feels that she goes to the emergency room for help. Confusingly all of her labs, and studies come back normal. The ER doctor shrugs her off and sends her on her way. Confused, "Maria" goes online to figure out what caused the episode. She comes across information about panic attacks, but still has questions, because she knows you can't trust what you read on reddit...


What is a panic attack?

Panic attacks are sudden, episodic bursts of anxiety, panic, fear and physical symptoms.

intense surges of fear, panic, or anxiety. They are uncomfortable, overwhelming, and can make some patients feel like they are having an heart attack. During a panic attack you can experience chest pain, palpitations, or even difficulty breathing.

Panic attacks can occur suddenly and without warning. A panic attack typically lasts for 10-20 minutes, but for some patients, the episode may last longer.

Panic Attack Symptoms

Panic attacks are more than just intense anxiety episodes, there's a strong component of physical symptoms. Although they’re not physically harmful, panic attacks can be extremely uncomfortable. Symptoms of a panic attack include:

Palpitations or increased heart rate



Trembling or shaking

Feelings of choking

Chest pain

Nausea or abdominal discomfort

Dizziness or lightheadedness

Choking or smothering sensation

Difficulty breathing.

Intense anxiety or fear

Feeling like you’re going to die.

Tingling or numbness in fingers or toes.


What Causes Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks can be triggered by stress, uncomfortable thoughts or situations. They may also pop up without a known trigger.In theory, anyone could have a panic attack. Yet there are factors that increase your risk and make the phenomenon more likely. For example, women are twice as likely as men to develop panic disorder. Factors such as an underlying psychiatric disorder, substance use, stress, or trauma can all contribute.

And when in doubt, you can always blame your parents-- as in there is a strong genetic component. Anxiety disorders tend to run in families.


What can I do if I have a panic attack?

It's best to allow doctors and therapists to diagnose and provide a comprehensive treatment plan to address your symptoms. Yet, there are things that can help at home. Managing panic attacks involves thinking about short term relief and longer term management and prevention. Here are a few options you can use to try to manage panic attacks.

How To Stop A Panic Attack

Panic attacks can be difficult to stop, Yet, deep breathing exercise, mindfulness techniques and physical movement can help.

Panic attack symptoms can mimic the symptoms of other health conditions. Therefore it's important to get evaluated by doctor to rule out other causes for your discomfort.

Treatment for Panic Attack

Panic attacks are notoriously hard for patients to manage without help. If you are suffering from panic attacks, you should be able to find help in your area. You should find a psychiatrist or other mental health professional with experience with treating anxiety disorders.

Psychiatrists and psychologists can help diagnosis and provide treatment for panic attacks. Psychotherapy, medications or a combination are very effective in treatment panic attacks.



The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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