A panic attack is an abrupt occurrence of discomfort or fear that can last for several minutes. Symptoms include:
Heart palpitations or racing heart
Stomach discomfort and nausea
An attack can occur when you feel anxious or stressed or calm and relaxed. Though anxiety can include some of the same symptoms, what defines a panic attack is the intensity and duration of the symptoms. They typically reach peak level in 10 minutes or less, then subside.
Panic attacks are a defining characteristic of panic disorder, but they can also be experienced by sufferers of other psychological disorders, including social anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Luckily, panic attacks are treatable. Your doctor will first see if they might be caused by a different disorder or a medication you’re taking. Once that has be determined, some treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps you understand your triggers, or exposure therapy, which has you mimic actions related to an attack to overcome fear of the attack. There are also medications, although experts say they should only be taken short-term alongside therapy. If you’re experiencing panic attacks, talk to your doctor.