If you ever had a sudden feeling of dread come over you and trouble breathing, you may have experienced a panic attack. These attacks of intense fear will trigger physical reactions in the body, which can increase the fear even more. The fear may not be proportional to the actual situation at hand, but the mental and physical feelings are very real. Panic attacks can come at any time and usually strike without warning. They are generally brief, lasting ten minutes or less, though sometimes they linger for hours. People who have experienced a panic attack are at a greater risk for future attacks. People who experience recurrent episodes over time, without a clear cause, may be diagnosed with a panic disorder. While the cause of panic attacks are not entirely understood, they are often associated with other mental illnesses such as depression.
There are a number of symptoms of panic attack. A racing heartbeat is a common symptom, which can lead to insufficient blood flow to the rest of the body, depriving organs and tissues of oxygen. Breathing difficulties and lightheadedness can stem from this symptom, as well. Sharp, stabbing chest pains can occur due to the muscles in the chest contracting. Numbness or tingling in the fingers or hands, sweating, trembling, chills, hot flashes, and nausea are also symptoms of panic attacks. Finally, people often feel fatigued after episodes, which is unsurprising considering the stress the body undergoes during an attack.
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