Panic Attacks And Agoraphobia Frequently Asked Questions

What are panic attacks?

They are periods of intense fear, even terror, that can suddenly appear out of the blue, for no apparent reason. Large amounts of adrenaline are released into the bloodstream. You may feel dizzy, think you are having a heart attack, feel like you're going to die or that you're going crazy.

Despite the amount of torture it can cause, the irony is that a panic attack is physically harmless.

To look at it another way, the body sends a false danger signal when there is no danger. Without treatment, it could lead to panic disorder with agoraphobia.

What are the symptoms of panic attacks?

There are several. These include dizziness, feeling lightheaded, racing/pounding heart, chest pain, difficulty breathing, sweating, chills or hot flashes, tingling sensations, fear of losing control, dying or going crazy. To put it in another way: absolute terror.

How long do they last?

It varies. It also depends on whether you have mastered coping skills and strategies. Generally though, most last for under a minute to several minutes; longer in extreme cases (diminishing over several hours).

Am I going to die?

No. The panic attack itself will not kill you. Although it feels terrible ,it is physically harmless. It does a lot of emotional damage, but you will not die from it.

Am I going crazy?

No. It does not mean you are going crazy, although many people having a panic attack worry that this is what is actually happening!

Will I ever get well?

This condition is very treatable. Most people are able to learn how to effectively manage their condition so that panic attacks either no longer occur or are not as traumatic.

It also depends on how long you've had it. The sooner you seek help and commit to getting better the less likely you are to develop further complications such as panic disorder with agoraphobia.

What is a panic disorder with agoraphobia?

If you have had one or more panic attacks and start avoiding situations because you fear having a another one, you likely have a panic disorder.

You may also start to avoid going out because you are afraid of having a panic attack where there is no help or quick escape. You fear losing control and being embarrassed, so you begin to shut yourself off from life.

You begin to stay at home more and more. This is now a panic disorder with agoraphobia.

How long does it take to get better?

How long it takes to get better depends on several factors including your own level of committment to work on getting better, the resources you have available to you, how long you have suffered and if you also have other contributing issues.

Do I need to take drugs?

There are many healing options available. Some people take medication. There are many other effective options including therapy/counseling,self help programs, natural remedies, meditation,and hypnosis.

Can I stop a panic attack?

You can most definitely reduce the frequency of occurence and control the extent to which it bothers you, how long it lasts and what symptoms you experience.

Why did it happen out of the blue for no reason?

There is very likely a reason. Sometimes, it can happen because of stress, lack of sleep, blood sugar levels, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, diet, lack of exercise, fearful thinking, or memories of prior traumatic experiences.

What do I do during a panic attack?

You need to practice coping skills BEFORE it happens. It can be difficult to know what to do when it hits you, but practicing certain skills will definitely help. These include proper breathing, listening to relaxation tapes etc. The best thing you can do is to immediately apply your breathing skills.

Are panic attacks dangerous?

No, they are physically harmless. However, if some people go on to develop panic disorder with agoraphobia and some become depressed and suicidal.

That is why it is very important to begin to help yourself as soon as possible.

What happens in a panic attack?

Panic attacks affect people differently. Some people feel like they are choking, others feel dizzy, your heart pounds, shaking, chills, hot flashes, chest pain; these are some of the things that may happen. In addition, a person may feel that they are going crazy or that they are dying. The problem is that many of the symptoms feel like serious symptoms of the heart, lung, stomach and the nervous system.

Could it be a heart attack?

See your doctor to rule out serious health conditions.

In most cases though you may feel like you are having a heart attack, it's very likely that it's not. Because panic attacks mimic other more serious conditions, you may think it's a heart attack.

When in doubt, check it out!

Why am I getting panic attacks?

No one knows for sure exactly what causes them but it is likely a combination of a variety of factors.

What is agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia can have different meanings for different people. Generally though, when you develop a fear of panic attacks and start avoiding situations, this is agoraphobia, or panic disorder with agoraphobia.

You feel uncomfortable leaving home. You will develop a 'safe zone'. You do not feel you can go out by yourself and will require a trusted person to accompany you everywhere.

In extreme cases, you may not even leave your own bedroom. If you think you are starting to have these issues please get help asap!

Can self help treatment programs help?

Yes. There are many excellent alternative and self help treatments & programs that have helped many people to recover.

Be sure to research and read reviews on all treatment programs and choose wisely. Some are great programs with high success rates.

Is there anything to make me feel better?

Absolutely, therapy, medication, herbal remedies, hypnosis and relaxation tapes, meditation, exercise, supplements, diet modification, yoga - these are all things that will you feel better and help you to gain control and diminish the fear.

Will I have panic disorder with agoraphobia for the rest of my life?

If you seek out the right treatment you will NOT need to suffer - although you will need to continue to maintain a lifestyle and healthy thought processes to effectivley manage your condition.

The sooner you get help the better - the longer you wait the more complex your symptoms can become. However, even if you have suffered for years you can still get well!

Learn more about anxiety and panic attacks