Do you feel like the world is ending with a sense of impending DOOM? Heart racing… afraid with a heaviness in your chest and can’t seem to catch your breath? You’re not alone. You may be experiencing a panic attack . Over four million Americans suffer from panic attacks, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health,roughly 5% of the adult American population. Many researchers feel that even this number is a low estimate, because many people who experience panic attacks never receive the proper diagnosis and "live" with its constant terror.
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." These episodes often occur “out of the blue,” and can have no recognizable trigger.
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 disorder sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some family members have it while others don’t. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain, as well as biological processes, play a key role in fear and anxiety. Some researchers think that people with panic disorder misinterpret harmless bodily sensations as threats. By learning more about how the brain and body functions in people with panic disorder, scientists may be able to create better treatments. Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and environmental factors may play a role.
If you or someone you know experiences panic attacks, talk to your doctor. You are not alone.