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Fight Back Against Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are unsettling but treatable

Fight Back Against Panic Attacks

A panic attack is a sudden wave of intense fear, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as a fast heartbeat or nausea, when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Having even one panic attack is an unsettling experience. If it happens over and over, that can cause a lot of anxiety. So it’s great to know that panic attacks can be overcome with the right treatment and support.

“Some people have a single panic attack, and it never happens again,” says Edward Norris, MD, Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Lehigh Valley Health Network. “But others have repeated attacks, a condition called panic disorder.” The attacks can occur anywhere, anytime, and without warning. You may spend a lot of energy worrying about when the next one will happen. And you may start avoiding places where past attacks occurred.

Fortunately, help is available. With treatment, you can learn to conquer panic attacks and take back control of your life.

What does a panic attack feel like?

The symptoms of a panic attack may include:

  • Sudden, overwhelming fear or anxiety
  • A sense that something terrible is about to happen
  • Pounding or racing heart
  • Trembling
  • Tingling hands
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain or nausea
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

“Panic attacks come on quickly, reach their peak intensity within 10 minutes and then pass,” Dr. Norris says. “They may seem to occur out of the blue for no clear reason.”

Other health conditions, such as a heart attack or thyroid problem, can cause similar symptoms. So be sure to get a medical evaluation and diagnosis.

From panicked to peaceful

“Although it may feel dire, panic disorder isn’t actually life-threatening,” Dr. Norris says. “But it is a very real – and very treatable – health condition.” Treatment typically involves one or more of these options:

  • Antidepressant or anti-anxiety medicine
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches you new ways of thinking about and reacting to the feelings associated with panic attacks
  • Exposure therapy, a form of CBT, which helps you get back to activities that you’ve been avoiding due to fear of having another panic attack

Along with following your treatment plan, focus on sleeping enough, eating wisely and exercising regularly. It may also help to practice specific relaxation techniques. Ask your doctor or clinician or a therapist for advice on what to do.

Treatment for Anxiety Disorders at Lehigh Valley Health Network

Anxiety Disorders

If you are facing an anxiety disorder, the behavioral health experts at Lehigh Valley Health Network offer personalized care plans and specialized support.

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