Panic attack (anxiety attack)
A panic attack is when people experience a sudden and overwhelming fear without a real danger being present. In panic attacks, people experience very strong physical anxiety symptoms that intensify and peak in minutes. Panic attacks usually pass quickly and most often the symptoms disappear within half an hour. Examples of these physical symptoms include accelerated heartbeat, increased sweating, shivering, feeling like you are suffocating, chest pain, numbness, feeling like you might faint and nausea. This is often followed by thoughts and fears of losing control, losing your mind, having a heart attack or dying. Panic attacks can occur unexpectedly and occur in situations where an individual does not expect them, but they may also occur in situations that usually give the person anxiety.
Panic attacks are not a disorder but they are extremely uncomfortable and can be symptoms of a disorder. Panic attacks can occur in many anxiety disorders, e.g. people with a syringe and needle phobia may have a panic attack in the proximity of syringes and needles. The anxiety disorder called panic anxiety disorder is when people get repeated panic attacks, causing them great distress, and they are constantly worried about getting a second attack. Although panic attacks are often accompanied by the disorders, they can occur to anyone, and anyone can have a panic attack without having an anxiety disorder.
In the vernacular (everyday language), a panic attack is often referred to when people are very worried about something for a long time or feel overwhelmed by worries. Such experiences are certainly uncomfortable, but the emotions and physical reactions associated with a panic attack are much stronger and more overwhelming. It is important to know the symptoms of a panic attack and to know the difference between these two because when people have a panic attack and do not know the symptoms, they can think that they are dying or having a heart attack and even seek medical help because of it. Panic attacks are characterised by frenetic fears, great physical reactions and they peak in minutes.
Some people only have one attack, but others have them every once in a while without them having a major impact on their daily life. When panic attacks are regular, part of a disorder or the main symptoms of the disorder (panic anxiety disorder), the attacks cause great difficulties and distress. When panic attacks start to have a significant impact on life and well-being, people should seek help.