Panic Attacks FAQ

Panic attacks information is abundant these days and those who suffer often ask similar questions in their early experiences and usually following an initial attack and/or consultation with their doctor.
Anybody who has ever suffered a panic attack will tell you that they are possibly the worst possible thing a person can experience. The extreme feelings of terror experienced during an episode leave a haunting reminder in the victim’s memory long after the attack has subsided. Hence, it is imperative that we all enlighten ourselves of this problem. Following is a short yet comprehensive FAQ that provides vital insights, therefore read this information very carefully.

Q. What is a Panic Attack?
A. A panic attack, as the name suggests, is an episode of intense fear and panic in which a person feels he/she is losing complete control and/or is going crazy, or even worse going to die.
Q. Do Panic Attacks occur at specific times in life?
A. No, they don’t. They usually occur without warning and can strike you at any age. Although certain life events may lead to the incidence of an attack, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce, these events alone cannot be held responsible for causing one..
Q. How long does a typical panic attack last?
A. Although the exact length of an episode varies from one person to the other, generally speaking an attack lasts for about 30 minutes. It tends to reach its peak after about 10 to 15 minutes, following which the symptoms slowly subside.
Q. What are the symptoms of a Panic Attack?
A. Information on their symptoms varies on a case to case basis. However, the common list of symptoms includes hyperventilation (i.e. over breathing which brings about light headiness), heart palpitations (i.e. a racing heartbeat), chest pain, trembling, choking, sweating, nausea, upset stomach, dizziness, lightheadedness, faintness, numbness, hot or cold flushes, and detachment from one’s surroundings.
Q. According to information, can panic attacks be cured? If so, what methods are used in treatment?
A. Historical information on panic attacks as well as studies on the subject all point to the fact that they are a curable problem. Although the treatment varies on a case to case basis, it should be noted that there are three main types of treatments one can undergo; medication, behavioral therapy, and a combination of the two.
Q. Which is the best treatment option for Panic Attacks?
A. According to statistics and information available today, one can conclude that behavioral therapy is the best treatment option for this problem/disorder. This is because behavioral therapy attacks the root cause of the problem and unlike medication, it aims to bring about permanent changes in the patient’s behavior and neurological associations that lead to or trigger a panic episode.
Q. What types of behavioral therapy options are open to me?
A. Generally speaking, there are two main therapy options for anybody suffering from an anxiety disorder. The first option is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which aims to alter a person’s cognitions such that his/her behavior is changed as a result. Meanwhile, the second option is called Exposure Therapy which basically exposes a person to his/her fear(s) in a controlled setting with the aim that with increased exposures, the person will realize that their fears are irrational and baseless.
Q. What are the types of medications I may need to take to counter panic attacks?
A. Generally speaking, you will need to take either SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) or benzodiazepines. While benzodiazepines are fast acting drugs which can be used to counter panic attack symptoms as and when they surface, SSRIs are anti-depressants which need to be used for several weeks and offer general anxiety relief. Common benzodiazepines include Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan, while popular SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil.
Q. How safe and effective are panic attack medications?
A. Medications, especially benzodiazepines, can greatly help counter the symptoms. However, their intake can bring about a long list of side effects. Moreover, the use of these medications with alcohol or sleeping pills can prove to be fatal combination. Furthermore, since panic attack medications are very addictive in nature and can boast severe withdrawal symptoms, it is highly advised that they be avoided and only taken after comprehensive consultations with one’s doctor or physician.
Q. Are panic attacks harmful and/or will I die from them
A. You are very unlikely to die from the panic attack or symptoms of one directly. Whilst they appear to be very frightening to the individual concerned and often times you feel as though you are having a heart attack or similar, doctors and specialists will tell you that there is nothing to be feared from the physical symptoms of the attack itself. However as you will discover as you learn more; if left untreated they become a disorder then that’s when more harm can happen, but mainly psychologically.