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Questions & Answers About Panic Attacks

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The Cleveland Clinic reports that about 11% of adults in the United States will have at least one panic attack in a typical year. Yet, even though millions of Americans have experience with panic attacks, many people don’t understand what they are. 

Questions & Answers About Panic Attacks

The following are answers to common questions about panic attacks.

What is a Panic Attack?

If we’re going to discuss panic attacks, let’s begin with the basics. What is a panic attack? A panic attack is the sudden onset of intense fear and anxiety, along with a variety of distressing physical symptoms, for no apparent reason. Though a person is in no real danger, when they are in the midst of a panic attack, they may literally believe that they are about to die.

What Do Panic Attacks Feel Like?

If you’ve never had a panic attack, you may wonder, what do panic attacks feel like? Here are some common symptoms:

  • Sudden onset of intense fear
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sensation of being choked or suffocated
  • Hot flashes and/or chills
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling
  • Racing heart rate
  • Intense chest pains
  • Tinging in the hands and feet

What Triggers Panic Attacks?

One of the many difficult aspects of panic attacks is that there is no clear answer to the question, what triggers panic attacks? 

Some experts believe that exposure to overwhelming stress, low self-esteem, and certain phobias can put a person at risk for panic attacks. Others have noted that certain drugs or medications can increase the likelihood that someone will have a panic attack. 

How Long Does a Panic Attack Last?

It can be reassuring to know how long a panic attack lasts. Unfortunately, there is no single, definitive answer to this question.

Some people have panic attacks that last five or ten minutes. Other people have panic attacks that last 20 minutes or even longer. 

What Are the Signs of a Panic Attack?

Earlier on the page, we discussed what a panic attack feels like. But can you tell if someone else is having a panic attack? What are the signs of a panic attack? Here are a few common indicators:

  • The person suddenly has trouble maintaining their balance.
  • They begin to sweat excessively.
  • They start breathing much faster, as though they can’t catch their breath.
  • They begin to tremble or shake.
  • The appear to be disoriented.

Can You Die From a Panic Attack?

Given what you now know about what panic attacks look and feel like, you may wonder, can you die of a panic attack? The good news is that panic attacks are not deadly. If a person has a panic attack when they are driving a car or in another precarious position, the effects of the attack could lead to a fatal accident. But panic attacks themselves are not considered to be life-threatening occurrences.

How Do I Calm a Panic Attack? 

Panic attacks can be terrifying. It can be helpful to know how to calm a panic attack. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Focus on your breathing. Take slow, deep breaths.
  • Focus on specific objects, sounds, or smells in your immediate environment.
  • Remind yourself that you’ve been through this before, and these feelings will pass.
  • Place a damp, cool washcloth on the back of your neck.
  • Call a friend who can help you talk your way through the experience.

How Do I Prevent Panic Attacks? 

Knowing how to prevent panic attacks would be a valuable skill. Unfortunately, there is no single technique or set of steps to accomplish this. However, here are a few ways to minimize your risk:

  • Practice mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercises.
  • Learn how to improve your stress-management skills.
  • Follow a nutritious diet and cut back on caffeine.
  • Get appropriate exercise on a regular basis.
  • Consult with your doctor or contact a treatment center.

Can You Have a Panic Attack in Your Sleep?

This may surprise you, but the answer to the question, “Can you have a panic attack in your sleep?” is yes. The Mayo Clinic reports that nocturnal panic attacks can happen while you are sleeping. They are usually brief, but they can still be extremely distressing.

Can You Pass Out From a Panic Attack?

You feel lightheaded. You can’t catch your breath. Can you pass out from a panic attack? The good news is that passing out from panic attacks is extremely rare. Though you might feel like you’re about to pass out when you’re having a panic attack, this is very unlikely to actually happen.

What Should I do After a Panic Attack? 

In addition to learning how to soothe yourself during a panic attack, it can also be valuable to know what to do after a panic attack. Here are some suggestions:

  • Find a safe and comfortable space
  • Re-orient yourself to your environment
  • Continue to focus on your breathing
  • Call, text, or otherwise reach out to a trusted friend or family member.

Can a Panic Attack Cause a Heart Attack?

Panic attacks can feel like heart attacks, so people who have them may wonder, can a panic attack cause a heart attack? Thankfully, the likelihood that a panic attack can trigger a heart attack is minimal.

How Can I Treat a Panic Attack? 

You can’t treat panic attack on your own – but you can consult with a professional who knows how to treat a panic attack. Talk to your family doctor, your therapist, or another qualified professional. If you’re not currently seeing a doctor or a therapist, you can contact a treatment center like Montare Behavioral Health. We will be happy to answer any questions you have about treating panic attacks.

Overcome Panic Attacks at Montare in Los Angeles, California

If you have been having panic attacks, Montare Behavioral Health can help. Our center in Los Angeles, California, offers a variety of evidence-based mental health treatment services at the inpatient and outpatient levels. Contact us today to learn more.