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What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack refers to a sudden and often unexpected burst of acute anxiety, usually accompanied by a number of physical symptoms and catastrophic thoughts.  It usually lasts for between two and thirty minutes and when it does pass, the sufferer will feel weak and exhausted.  Without effective treatment, panic attacks can escalate and occur several times a week, or even daily.

Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing, or hyperventilation
  • Palpitations or a pounding or rapid heartbeat
  • Tightness, pressure or pain in the chest
  • Shaking, trembling and weakness
  • Feeling faint, dizzy or unsteady
  • Sweaty palms and excessive perspiration

Accompanying these physical symptoms of panic, people commonly experience distressing thoughts, including feeling as if they are having a heart attack or stroke, fearing they are 'going insane' or that they might faint, collapse or embarrass themselves in public.