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What does a panic attack feel like?

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Quick Answer

According to MedlinePlus, a panic attack is a sudden feeling of terror that can cause someone to experience physical symptoms, such as a fast heartbeat, difficulty breathing, weakness, dizziness, sweating, tingling or numbness in the hands, and chest or stomach pain. Panic attacks can also cause a person to feel a hot or cold chill. These attacks are generally brief and last less than 10 minutes, notes WebMD.

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Full Answer

Panic attacks can strike without warning, which is why those who suffer from them tend to remain fearful and anxious. According to WebMD, the cause of panic disorders is unclear, but they can be associated with stress or major life changes such as having a child, getting married or starting a new job. A person who has had one panic attack is more likely to have subsequent attacks than someone who has never experienced one. A person who repeatedly has panic attacks is considered to have a panic disorder.

Panic attacks are treatable, and most sufferers get better with treatment, according to MedlinePlus. A combination of psychotherapy and oral medications, including antianxiety medications and antidepressants, have been used to treat the disorder. According to WebMD, panic disorders are common, and they affect 1.7 percent of adults in the United States between the ages of 18 and 54.

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