Foothills Psych Services

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a psychiatric condition that’s characterized by a diverse clinical presentation.

If you ask a patient who’s having a panic attack about their feelings, they will describe their symptoms as physical entities rather than psychological.

In other words, these patients may be aware that their symptoms are caused by mental illness, but they cannot control what they’re experiencing since it feels more organic.

Some patients may even think they’re dealing with a cardiovascular issue due to the similarities between a panic attack and myocardial infarction (heart attack).

The difference between a panic attack and panic disorder

People often confuse panic attacks with panic disorder; however, these two conditions are different.

According to the DSM-V, a panic disorder is defined as having at least one panic attack followed by one month of constant worry about the consequences of the attack and/or considerable behavioral modifications.

In simpler terms, a panic attack might be a one-time thing, while panic disorder is a chronic psychiatric illness.

The symptoms of a panic attack

Regardless of the nomenclature, the symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Tachycardia (accelerated heart rate)
  • Palpitations (pounding heart)
  • Profuse sweating
  • Trembling
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Numbness and tingling sensations
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Fear of dying

Takeaway message

As you can see, panic attacks present with diverse signs and symptoms that are difficult to manage.

Unfortunately, many patients are unable to visit a therapist due to psychological and/or socio-economic reasons. Add to that the global quarantine caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and you got patients are suffering in silence.

However, it is not all doom and gloom!

Many psychiatric institutions started offering their services online (telepsychiatry) to help patients from the comfort of their homes. Telepsychiatry services can help individuals with panic attacks and other mental disorders.

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