Frightening Symptoms of Panic Attacks

By Deborah Shevaun

It is an unfortunate truth that panic attacks are becoming increasingly common, and in excess of twenty percent of us may fall victim to the frightening symptoms of panic attacks if current medical research can be believed. Given this statistic, it seems a good idea to be aware of what the potential symptoms can be in case we find ourselves suffering from the condition, or in a position to help someone else.

A panic attack is best explained as an unexpected sensation of immense fear or uncertainty, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. During this attack the victim may feel so frightened that they firmly believe they are about to die, and when experienced for the first time most sufferers agree that it is the single most terrifying moment in their life. This is largely due to the uncertainty about what they are feeling, and their lack of knowledge about the condition.

Although most first time victims will be between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, a panic attack can strike for the first time at any age, and children are by no means immune to such episodes. It is possible to have just one attack and never be troubled again, but more common is for the first attack to be followed by numerous subsequent episodes.

One of the reasons that diagnosis can be difficult initially is the sheer number of frightening symptoms of panic attacks that exist. These include palpitations, a feeling of detachment, loss of control, tingling of the arms and legs, nausea, chest pains and breathing difficulties. The sufferer often believes that they are dying and there is nothing they can do to regain control of their failing body.

Why panic attacks strike is a question that medical experts are still trying to work out, and to date there is no clear answer. Emotional turbulence would appear to be a common theme among victims and family bereavements, relationship difficulties and work related stress can all increase the risk of falling victim to an attack. Stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine and depressants like alcohol or antihistamines are also believed to be potential catalysts.

Given the chasm in our understanding, treatment of this illness is by no means simple. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a popular remedy as it believed that influencing the thought process may be the best approach to limiting the severity of any attack. Standard anti-depressants are also prescribed on occasion, but there is great uncertainty as to how effective a cure these drugs really are.

It is plain to see that much more emphasis must be placed on combating the frightening symptoms of panic attacks, and hopefully further research will lead to a greater understanding of the disease and eventually a cure.

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