Panic attacks often first arise in response to a stressful event. They are “false” alarms, as the alarm feeling occurs even though there is no real danger. A panic attack is a sudden rush of intense fear or dread, which usually goes along with several of the following physical symptoms and thoughts: shortness of breath or smothering feelings, dizziness, feeling faint or unsteady, racing or pounding heart, trembling or shaking, sweating, choking sensations, nausea or abdominal distress, feelings of being detached or things seeming unreal, numbness or tingling sensations, hot flashes or cold chills, chest pain or discomfort, fears of going crazy, fears of losing control, and fears of dying. These symptoms typically last from 5 to 10 minutes. The sensations are likely to be misinterpreted as signs of immediate physical or mental danger, such as losing control, dying, fainting, or going crazy.
Initially this “out of the blue” feeling inspires one to want to flee – however, over time, most attacks become connected with specific situations and fears about future episodes leaves individuals to develop “safety behaviors” in order to avoid another attack (avoiding certain situations, places, exercising, etc. Untreated panic disorder may result in depression, use of alcohol and drugs, missed work, etc. Researchers have shown that two years following Cognitive therapy treatment, most individuals become panic free, where when using medication alone; symptoms often reemerge when medication is discontinued.