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What are the Symptoms of Panic Attacks

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By: David Smith

As a sudden attack of intensive fear, panic attack is often abrupt an often appear without apparent cause. Typically an attack last ten minutes and in severe cases are characterized by a period of waning and waxing every few minutes that ends after physical exhaustion and sleep.

Often, the individual experiences heavy and profuse sweating and manifests shortness of breath. Upon palpitation, there is a pounding heartbeat and the individual complains of chest pain brought about by rapid heartbeats. Others experience dizziness or lightheadedness while others complain of nausea and stomach pains. The lungs compensate by hyperventilating as the individual feels a choking sensation or a feeling of being choked or smothered.

Some individuals reported numbness in the hands, face, feet or mouth that if often mistaken for a cardiac arrest or heart attack. Others would also experience trembling or shaking and perceptive distortion wherein the sense of right or wrong is terribly lost and forsaken.

Psychological manifestations would also include dissociation, where there is a perception of not being connected to the body. A sense of unimaginably horrifying situation is also about to occur and the feeling of powerlessness is experienced in most individuals experiencing panic attacks.

For some there is a fear loosing control; fear of going crazy and or the fear of an impending death. Usually, the loss of the ability to react logically is likewise experienced. Although the senses are heightened, the individual is unmindful of his surroundings and is focused on the perceived aggressor. Often, he is observed to engage in loud internal dialogues. After the above symptoms are manifested, there is the feeling of exhaustion.

The above symptoms can be understood beginning an onset of sudden fear with little or no stimulus. This is heightened by the release of adrenaline (epinephrine) which elicits the flight or fight syndrome and prepares the body for major physical activity. The body compensates by allowing an increased in heart rate, rapid breathing and sweating. Hyperventilation leads to a drop in carbon dioxide levels in the lungs that in turn causes numbness, dizziness and lightheadedness.

The various symptoms of a panic attack can often be mistaken as a cardiac attack. When there is the sudden onset of fear without any provoking factor, this leads to a release of adrenaline or epinephrine. This hormone necessitates the fight-or-flight response and the body prepares for a major physical activity.

In turn, the release of the hormone increases the heart rate causing tachycardia, rapid breathing where there is hyperventilation, and sweating which aids in heat loss of the body. Because there is no strenuous activity, the hyperventilation leads to a drop in carbon dioxide levels in the lungs and the blood.

As the blood pH shifts which can in turn lead to many other symptoms such as tingling or numbness, dizziness, and lightheadedness, there is a possibility that the person experiencing such an attack feels as though they are unable to catch their breath. The combination of the above symptoms is often mistaken as cardiac attacks as shortness of breath is experienced coupled by numbness of the extremities.

Hyperventilation alone can bring about an idea that is commonly mistaken as a cardiac attack. However, the person experiencing the panic attack often does not realize and sees these symptoms as a further evidence of how serious their condition is. As the feedback loop of adrenaline release fuels worsens the physical symptoms and psychological distress, the relative signs of cardiac attack seems very real.

While the symptoms of the panic disorder are experienced, the seriousness of the feelings of panic or impending death is grossly exaggerated. Doctors can often tell panic attack sufferers and often observe that while their body is affected by the attack, they are not in actual risk of fatality except when the attack produces a resultant reaction such as crashing a car, running into traffic or committing suicide, etc.

If a sufferer can anticipate an impending attack and find a safe place to release the tension, there is little or immediate risk.

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About the Contributor

David Smith is the owner of Keyboard Books. You can find out more about Panic Attacks by going to

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