I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of people having a panic attack and someone saying that they just wanted attention. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While a panic attack is not the same as some traditional medical conditions, it is both a mental and physical disorder that must be taken very seriously.
As classified by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), panic disorders are classified as a type of anxiety dissorder. 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.
Related: Manage Your Panic Attacks
Signs and Symptoms
Panic disorder are 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.
- pounding heart
- chest pains
- difficulty breathing
- the fear of going crazy
- cold or hot flashes
- a choking sensation
Dangers and Concerns
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 as panic attacks do not pose an immediate risk of danger. Concern should be noted though if following the panic attack you begin to experience constant worry about have another panic attack, constant worry about a condition that could be related to the attack, recurrent attacks, or major changes in your lifestyle.
Related: My Story – Postpartum Depression
When to see a Doctor
Having one panic attack doesn’t necessarily mean you have a panic disorder. Although, if attacks occur a number of times and/or interrupts your life, you should see a doctor.
If you begin to experience panic attacks make an appointment to see a doctor. Try to write down the symptoms you’ve experienced and note the time and length of the attack. Keeping a log will make it easier to share your symptoms with your healthcare provider. 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 a real and debilitating disorder. If someone around you is experiencing a panic attack, offer help instead of judgement.
Read more about panic disorders and other anxiety disorders by clicking on the links below.
- Panic Disorder: What It Is and How to Get Help
- NIMH » Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA