Learn about Panic (with or without agoraphobia)
A panic attack is a discrete period of intense fear or discomfort that usually peaks at about 10 minutes. Accompanying symptoms of panic attacks include fast beating heart, sweating, shaking, numbness or tingling sensations, shortness of breath, smothering sensations, feelings of choking, fear of dying, and fear of going crazy. Individuals suffering from panic attacks often avoid activities, foods, and drinks that “mimic” sensations experienced during panic attacks such as caffeine, vigorous exercise, and alcohol. When individuals experience 4 or more panic attacks in a month, experience significant behavioral changes as result of the panic attacks (such as avoiding certain activities) and report anxiety about having future attacks (e.g.., “what if I have another attack?!”) then they may be diagnosed with panic disorder.
Many individuals who experience panic attacks report feeling as if they are having a heart attack and often visit the emergency room which results in numerous tests that (a) are expensive and (b) result in the individual being told that they are experiencing “stress.” Roughly 6 million Americans suffer from panic disorder.
Agoraphobia is a related condition that involves anxiety about being in situations where escape might be difficult or embarrassing in the event of having a panic attack. Common places that are often avoided as a result of panic include movie theaters, supermarkets, crowds, stadiums, concerts, public transportation, closed in spaces (elevators, caves, tunnels) and restaurants. Many individuals with agoraphobia report being confined to their homes, unable to work, and report symptoms of depression along with panic and agoraphobia.