A panic attack is episodes of acute fear or discomfort that can last for up to fifteen minutes.
During a panic attack, women may experience:
- Feeling like you can’t breathe
- Chest pressure or chest pain
- Pounding heart
- Racing pulse
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Tightness in the throat
- Trembling or shaking
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- Hot flushes or chills
- Sense of unreality or dreamlike sensations
- Extreme fear of losing control, doing something embarrassing, going ‘crazy’ or dying
People having panic attacks sometimes believe they are having heart attacks, losing their minds, or on the verge of death.
They sometimes can’t predict when or where an attack will occur, and between episodes many worry intensely and dread the next attack.
When people have repeated panic attacks, or become very fearful of having further panic attacks, this is called Panic Disorder.
People who have full-blown, repeated panic attacks can become very disabled as they start to avoid places or situations where panic attacks have occurred. For example, if a panic attack happened while driving they may develop a fear of driving and avoid it completely.
Some people become housebound or are able to confront a feared situation only when accompanied by a spouse or other trusted person. When the condition progresses this far, it is called agoraphobia.