A panic attack can only be described as a comprehensive emotional nightmare. Some people with panic feel like they are in an escalating cycle of catastrophe and doom and that something bad is going to happen to them "right now this very moment."
Others feel as if they are having a heart attack as their heart races. The heart palpitations convince them that they are about to have an attack. Other people feel that they are going to "lose control" of themselves and will do something embarrassing in front of other people. Others breathe so quickly, gasping for air, that they hyperventilate and feel like they will suffocate from lack of oxygen.
Common symptoms of panic include:
a racing or pounding heartbeat
dizziness and lightheadedness
feeling that "I can't catch my breath"
chest pains or a "heaviness" in the chest
flushes or chills
tingling in the hands, feet, legs, arms
jumpiness, trembling, twitching muscles
sweaty palms, flushed face
fear of losing control
fear of a stroke that will lead to disability
fear of dying
fear of going crazy
A panic attack typically lasts several long minutes and is one of the most distressing conditions a person can experience. In some cases, panic attacks have been known to last for longer periods of time or to recur very quickly over and over again.
The aftermath of a panic attack is very painful. Feelings of depression and helplessness are usually experienced. The greatest fear is that the panic attack will come back again and again, making life too miserable to bear.
Panic is not necessarily brought on by a recognizable circumstance, and it may remain a mystery to the person involved. These attacks come "out of the blue". At other times, excessive stress or other negative life conditions can trigger an attack.
Sadly, many people do not seek help for panic attacks, agoraphobia, and anxiety-related difficulties. This is especially tragic because panic and other anxiety disorders are treatable conditions that respond well to relatively short-term therapy. The National Institutes of Mental Health is currently conducting a nationwide campaign to educate the general public and health care practitioners that panic and the other anxiety disorders are some of the most successfully treated psychological problems. Clinical research provides us with a solid blueprint of cognitive, emotional and behavioral methods that can help us overcome anxiety disorders, such as panic and/or agoraphobia.
Today, panic attacks and agoraphobia can be treated successfully in the vast majority of cases. In fact, it is estimated that the appropriate therapy from a knowledgeable therapist helps over 90% of panic sufferers.
Cognitive/behavioral therapy is a relatively new treatment for panic and agoraphobia that has been shown to be successful. Instead of using old-fashioned analysis-based techniques, therapists employing new CBT methods focus on the present panic -- and how to eliminate it.
Thus, CBT has legitimately been called "how to" therapy. That is, the focus is on "how to" eliminate the thoughts and feelings that lead to the vicious cycle of panic and anxiety.
People who experience panic and agoraphobia, are not "crazy" and do not need to be in therapy for extended periods of time. Sessions depend on the severity and length of the problem and the willingness of the client to actively participate in treatment.
When a person with panic is motivated to practice and try new techniques, that person is literally changing the way their brain responds. When you change the way your brain responds, anxiety and panic will continue to shrink and shrink and cease to cause you problems.