Panic attacks cause extreme anxiety or fear that lasts a few minutes or as long as an hour or more; the average panic attack lasts 20 to 30 minutes.
These sensations often come on unexpectedly, without an identified cause, though they can also develop in response to certain triggers. In general, a panic attack is not life-threatening, but experts suggest people who regularly experience them learn coping mechanisms and avoid triggers. For an episode to medically qualify as a panic attack, an individual must experience at least four of the numerous physical symptoms the event can produce.
Panic attacks can cause hyperventilation. The person experiencing the event will begin taking rapid, shallow breaths or inhaling quickly as if he or she cannot get enough oxygen. Often, the manifestation of such symptoms further alarms and panics the person, which compounds the symptom.
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