Glossary of Medical Terms

Panic Attack

A panic attack is a sudden feeling of extreme anxiety. Symptoms include feelings of dying or losing control of oneself, rapid breathing (hyperventilation), and a racing heart.

A person having a panic attack may feel dizzy, sweaty or shaky. Other symptoms include trouble breathing, chest pain or tightness, and an irregular heartbeat.

A panic attack can be triggered by a stressful event, or it can occur unexpectedly. An attack starts suddenly and usually lasts from 5 to 20 minutes but may last even longer, up to a few hours. You have the most anxiety about 10 minutes after the attack starts. Panic attacks can be successfully treated with counseling and medicine. 

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