You are out running errands in the mall when all of a sudden you feel a loss of control. You stop walking and lean against a wall for support because you have a tingling sensation that is running down your arm.
You have a shortness of breath accompanied by slight dizziness. Your heart is pumping hard in your chest and you think you might be having a heart attack.
You are panicking as you lean against the wall and after a few minutes all of your symptoms begin to pass and your body goes back to normal. Your mind begins to calm down too and you are glad you are feeling better and confused about what just happened.
You just had a panic attack.
About 3 million people have full blown panic attacks, which makes this a relatively common disorder. One of the most challenging issues with panic attacks is the intense emotional fear that accompanies them. The experience is so intense it often causes a fear of having another panic attack.
Many people experience a panic attack or two during their entire life. However there is a subset of people that have four or more panic attacks or spend a month or more in fear.
These people may have a panic disorder and need to seek treatment from a health care professional. Because some of the symptoms are consistent with other serious health conditions it is important to be checked for physical as well as emotional issues.
The medical community is still not sure what causes panic attacks however there are factors that increase the risk of developing them during your lifetime.
Significant stressful events can trigger or worsen panic attacks such as death of a loved one, getting married, starting a new job or business venture or addition of child to the family.
Traumatic events like a serious illness either for yourself or a loved one, accidents or rape can be triggers as well.
A family history of panic attacks or panic disorder is another factor. Chronic or continuing stress over time is yet another factor.