Panic attacks are short periods, usually 10 minutes in durations, in which a person feels an intense sense of fear and anxiety. Some panic attacks have durations of only 1 to 5 minutes whereas some may go on for up to 2 hours with cyclic peaks and troughs. They occur suddenly and the sufferer mostly cannot identify the reason of occurrence.
Common symptoms experienced during a panic attack are breathlessness, which leaves the person gasping for air or breathing through the mouth. Palpitations of the heart might also occur. A palpitation means a person becoming aware or conscious of the beating of the heart, irrespective of whether the beat is normal, slow or fast.
A person may also feel a tension or stiffness in the chest region coupled with a throbbing pain. Perspiring in excess amounts, giddiness, faintness, vomiting sensations have also been observed in people having a panic attack.
People can have a panic disorder if they have frequent and recurring panic attacks. The major difference between panic disorders and other mental illnesses is that the panic attacks happen suddenly without warning and are mostly unprovoked.
Medication may be prescribed as a preventive and also for consumption during an attack. In certain cases just the knowledge of the fact that medication is available on hand reduces the chances of having a panic attack. This is indicative of the major psychological aspect of panic attacks.
Commonly prescribed medicines are Clonazepam, Alprazolam, Diazepam and Lorazepam, all of which are from the Benzodiazepines family. However, most doctors do not prefer to suggest such medication because it is highly addictive and has a host of side effects. Also the medication only calms the person during an attack and does not cure the cause.
Some doctors also prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRI’s, which are a family of antidepressants. Paroxetine, Sertraline and Fluvoxamine are commonly prescribed SSRI’s. Many people prevail over panic attacks by themselves without medication and professional help. They manage to do so because they realize eventually that nothing serious will ever happen during an attack. This is critical as this knowledge and more importantly belief in this knowledge is the first and biggest step in the treatment of panic disorders.
Some people harbor illogical fears of going to shopping malls or a vegetable market because they have had a panic attack in these places in the past. So a phobia is created in their minds about that specific location.
Sometimes panic attacks happen after the consumption of psychedelic drugs. In particularly bad experiences, the drug user may never again consume that specific drug. In further stages an individual may not leave the premises of a house for long periods, even months and years in some cases.
These signs and symptoms are all indicative of agoraphobia. It is one of the most dangerous side effects of panic disorder because such people never seek out professional help. However, agoraphobia is a rare occurrence.
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