Am I Having a Panic Attack?

Have you ever felt like you were having a heart attack? Is your breathing is suddenly troubled, can you hear your own heartbeat, or have you started shaking? You may be experiencing a panic attack.

According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual Five (DSM-V), a panic attack is “an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes.”

During the time of the panic attack, four or more of the following must occur:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Derealisation (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying

Panic attacks tend to be unpredictable and can sometimes happen at any time. Because of this, people who experience panic attacks may start avoiding situations or places where the panic attack occurred, or even steer clear of areas where they may feel like they can’t escape. This can interrupt their usual routines or disrupt their goals, which can become worse and turn into a panic disorder or anxiety disorder.

Fortunately, panic attacks and anxiety can be treatable so that it can be manageable in order to live your life. Counselling is normally the first course of treatment for mild to moderate problems with anxiety and panic attacks. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is effective and the preferred treatment for many anxiety problems in the long run (compared to medication) since this type of treatment involves changing thought processes and behaviours.