What is a Panic Attack and When Should You Seek Help?

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The feeling that everything is swirling around you and that the world is ending right before your eyes is a horrible experience. When you have a panic disorder, however, this can be a fairly regular occurrence during times of stress. If you've felt these kinds of out of control feelings before, you might have suffered from a panic attack. But to make sure that you are doing what's best for your body, here is the basic background on panic attacks, what they feel like, and when you should seek help.

Defining Panic Attacks

In truth, there are a lot of possible definitions of panic attacks - and they vary from person to person. But what is known is that panic attacks occur when the body gets a rush of adrenaline, causing it to feel the 'fight or flight' response. The body becomes very excited and energized, but also tense and nervous while the adrenaline moves through the blood stream. These attacks can often last for twenty minutes to up to a few hours, depending on how fast the adrenaline can be used up.

Often without a discernable cause, panic attacks are generally precipitated by a stressful event, but can also occur for no reason at all. When a person has a panic attack the first time, it can often lead to subsequent panic attacks because the person now fears that it will happen again and again.

Possible Symptoms

Just as every person is different every panic attack can have different signs and symptoms. These symptoms can include:


  • Palpitations, fast heart rate
  • Sweating and flushing of the skin
  • Shaking
  • Feeling short of breath, or choking
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Nausea or digestive distress
  • Feeling lightheaded, dizzy or as though you may faint
  • Feelings of things being 'unreal'
  • Feeling detached from the world around you
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Tingling feelings
  • Chills or hot flashes


These signs can come one at a time, or all at once, depending on the severity of the panic attack. Some people will only feel a few moderate symptoms, which others liken the panic attack experience to feeling like they were having a heart attack.

A pure panic attack is not necessarily a dangerous event. More than 5% of the population will experience one at one point of their life or another.

But this is the main reason why panic attacks require some sort of medical treatment or attention. Because their symptoms are so similar to more serious and deadly medication events, you need to know when to call in a professional opinion.

When You Need Medical Attention

Determining when you might need medical attention is a tricky proposition. Because your body is surging with adrenaline, it can certainly feel as though you are dying, even if you are not.

It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to chest related symptoms. If you feel pain or pressure in your chest that does not go away, you need immediate medical attention. Chances are pretty good that you are only having a panic attack, but in the case that you may not be, you need immediate assistance to prevent heart damage.

Another time when you might want to seek medical help is if your heart rate is extraordinarily high. That is, if your heart rate is over 120 beats per minute and it stays there. This excessive heart beat can also cause heart damage as well as more serious medical events. Again, having an emergency technician check you out is the best advice.

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About Author:
Grant Eckert is a writer for CareLink. CareLink is a leading provider of Community Support Services| Bipolar Treatment

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