A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear and anxiety that often strikes when the individual is away from home, but can also happen any time and anywhere. While panic attacks are usually triggered by a specific situation, they may also occur when the person is relaxed or even asleep. Signs and symptoms develop abruptly & out of the blue and may last from 10 minutes to an hour. The person may experience symptoms such as heart palpitations, dizziness, nausea, & may even feel that he/she is going crazy or dying. Some sufferers may also experience Agoraphobia ( fear of public places ) trying to avoid crowded places, shopping malls, and other situations they fear may trigger the panic attacks. A panic attack could be a one time occurrence, but most sufferers experience recurrent episodes of the disorder.
The exact causes of panic attacks are unclear, they may be connected to life transitions, severe stress, or even medical conditions. But regardless of the cause, panic attacks and panic disorder are treatable conditions utilizing one or combination of the following:
1- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ( through counseling & psychotherapy), this method is proved to be the most effective form of treatment for panic attacks & panic disorders.
2-Exposure therapy , involving exposing the person to the feared situation in a safe and controlled environment. This method is very effective for those suffering from panic disorder with agoraphobia.
3-Medications, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can be used temporarily and are very useful in controlling & reducing symptoms. Medications, however, are most effective when combined with other treatment such as psychotherapy, behavioral modification as well as relaxation techniques.