A panic attack isn’t dangerous. But the symptoms are a lot like those of heart attacks or other health problems that do need emergency treatment.
How do you know if you should go to the ER? If you’ve never had a panic attack and you’re having chest pain, go to the hospital. A doctor should check to make sure you’re not having a serious medical problem. Risk factors for a heart attack include high blood pressure, being overweight, having a close family member who has had a heart attack, and smoking.
Panic attacks are mostly misdiagnosed as heart attacks and most people end up in the ER because of it. Panic attacks can be frightening but are fortunately not physically harmful. They can occur suddenly, unexpectedly, unprovoked, and can be disabling. Panic attacks may occur for no known reason or after a person is exposed "trigger". They can intensity to a peak rapidly and also go away with or without medical intervention.
Symptoms of panic attacks may include palpitations, pounding heart, fast heart rate, sweating, trembling and shaking, sensations of shortness of breath or smothering, feelings of chocking, chest pain or discomfort, nausea, upset stomach, dizziness, unsteadiness, lightheadedness, feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself, fear of losing control or going crazy, fear of dying, chills, hot flashes, and numbness or tingling sensations.
The American Psychiatric Association's official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, Treatment Revision (DSM-IV-TR) defines a panic attack as a discrete period of intense fear, distress, nervousness or discomfort, in which four (or more) of the following symptoms develop abruptly and reach a peak within 10 minutes:
· Palpitations, pounding heart, or fast heart rate
· Trembling and shaking
· Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
· Feelings of chocking
· Chest pain or discomfort
· Nausea or abdominal distress
· Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
· Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
· Fear of losing control or going crazy
· Fear of dying
· Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
· Chills or hot flashes
If you have most of the symptoms above, chances are you are suffering from panic disorder. If so, you are not alone. More than 3 million American adults have, or will have, panic disorder. Most frequently, it starts in young adulthood. Usually, it does not go away by itself. But with proper treatment, people with panic disorder can be helped.
You do not have to live this way. You need to know that panic disorder is treatable. In fact, proper treatment reduces or completely prevents panic attacks in 70 to 90 percent of people. Many people feel substantial relief in just weeks or months.
Unfortunately, some people are reluctant to pursue treatment. Perhaps they think their condition is not serious. Perhaps they feel embarrassed. They may blame themselves or have trouble asking for help. Perhaps they dislike the idea of medication or therapy. Or, maybe they have sought help but are frustrated because their condition was not diagnosed or treated effectively.
If you have panic disorder, you should get whatever help is necessary to overcome it, just as you would for any serious medical illness.