Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear. These attacks usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes there is an obvious trigger but in other cases, the attacks come out of the blue. Some people even report having panic attacks in their sleep.

Panic attacks usually peak within 10 minutes, and they rarely last more than 30 minutes. During that short time, you may experience terror quite severe. You may feel as though you’re about to die or totally lose control.

The physical symptoms of anxiety attacks are so frightening that some people think that they’re having a heart attack. They’re frequently seen in the emergency room because of the severity of the symptoms. After an anxiety attack is over, you may worry about having another one, especially in a public place where help isn’t available or where you can’t easily escape.

Symptoms of an anxiety attack include:

• Surge of overwhelming panic

• Feeling of losing control or going crazy

• Heart palpitations or chest pain

• Feeling like you are going to pass out

• Trouble breathing or a choking sensation

• Hyperventilation

• Hot flashes or chills

• Trembling or shaking

• Nausea or stomach cramps

• Feeling detached or unreal

Seek help if you’re starting to avoid certain situations because you’re afraid of having a panic attack. Panic attacks are highly treatable. Many people are panic free after just 5-8 treatment sessions with a therapist. People are often treated with medication with good results.

If you wish more information, please feel free to contact Nancy Torson, MD, psychiatrist CHI St. Francis Health 643-0499.

Information for this column was obtained from help guide.org.

Nancy Torson, MD, specializing in psychiatryCHI St Francis Health, Breckenridge, Minnesota

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