Panic attacks are all too common occurrences amongst members of the society. It is estimated that about 3% of the population experience these symptoms at some point in their lives. They are characterized by moments in which an individual is suddenly plagued with fears and worries about a particular situation.

Most instances the symptoms accompanied with a panic attack are identified to include trembling, shortened breath, a racing heart and a sensation of being choked or smothered.

Depending on the degree of the attack, people might only suffer this experience for a number of seconds or go on to suffer it for a number of hours. The latter however is not too common and most records of panic attacks are averaged at 15 minutes.

Unlike most psychological conditions, panic attacks occur without a warning. Most people are therefore taken by surprise and ill equipped to address the problem. To make it even worse, most people who are experiencing a panic attack fail to realize what it is exactly that they are suffering from.

Because its symptoms closely mimics other known physical conditions—i.e. cardiac attacks, it is not uncommon for sufferers of panic attacks to wrongly conclude that something even graver is happening to them. As can be imagined, this assumption does little to quell the seriousness and effect of the ensuing panic attack.

There are various identified causes of panic attacks. In most cases people who experience these attacks are found to be in situations of high stress and tension.

The pressures caused by these situations causes the individual to suffer breakdowns in confidence. People are also found to begin to think irrationally during such scenarios, placing the worst case scenario as the most likely outcome of their situation.

Obviously the most direct form of treatment for this condition is for the affected person to try and calm down. People who are having panic attacks are therefore encouraged to sit down and breathe deeply and slowly. This action enables their body to slowly gear down from its “panic mode”. There are many breathing techniques which are practiced by people who suffer from this condition.

However in more extreme conditions of panic attacks—often regarded as panic disorders, medication or psychotherapy might be required. It is not impossible for both to be used. Medications which are aimed at reducing anxiety are often prescribed. Antidepressant drugs might also be prescribed to the patent depending on what the nature and cause of the person’s panic attack might be.

Whilst the use of drugs is sometimes an essential step, most doctors only refer to this method when other psychological and behavioral therapy methods are used.

These therapeutic methods, unlike the use of medications, are not aimed at curtailing the instances of attacks that might occur, but instead are centered on identifying what the probable cause of these panic attacks might be and helping the patients to see that their fears are not justified. By so doing this, patients are effectively cured of most of their fears. This method is found to be effective in about 80% of the patients treated.

People who suffer from panic attacks are exposed to many risks. When left untreated for a long period of time, they sometimes develop phobias one of which might be agoraphobia—fear of being in the open. In the most extreme cases depression and suicidal tendencies might surface. It is therefore important that you seek for treatment if you discover that you or a loved one might be prone to one.