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Panic attacks: causes, symptoms and treatment

Panic attacks: causes, symptoms and treatment

July 19, 2024

It was a Thursday afternoon and Luis left the university on his way home , as usual. He walked determinedly and everything seemed normal, but suddenly he began to notice strange sensations that he had never felt before. Anguish, tremors throughout the body, tachycardia, extreme anxiety and a totally irrational thought "I'm going to die!".

What are anxiety crises?

Luis tried to calm down but the anxiety, the thought and the irrational fear seized him , he found it impossible to calm down, thought that what was going through his mind was about to happen, and in an almost instinctive act he began to run around trying to find some kind of help.

The people who were in that place watched astonished Luis , trying to decipher what could be happening to the young man, why he was running aimlessly. Those who came closer to Luis could hear a desperate cry: "I do not want to die!"

When more than ten minutes had passed since the accident, Luis felt anxiety descending, felt how his heartbeat was regulating and how his ideas and thoughts were becoming clearer. Exhausted after that bad drink he remained seated and confused in a park, in the sight of many people who commented between mockeries "is a poor crazy person". Fearful and confused, Luis returned home without any logical response to what might have happened to him.

That night marked for Luis a before and after in his life . Luis did not understand what could have happened to him, but he saw how those events went on repeating habitually to the point of preventing him from performing his daily tasks, including his studies or having a family life as he had before that night. He felt afraid to be alone and to express what happened to him before those anguished states were present, Luis feared that his friends and family would take him for a madman, and for that reason he had kept silence his suffering.

He decided to entrust a very close friend with the situation he was living , and he recommended that he go to a specialist doctor to assess the case. The next day, Luis was decided to the doctor's office, but the doctor found nothing abnormal about him. He was referred to a mental health professional, who after several sessions, diagnosed that Luis was suffering from panic attacks.

This little story that we have just told is more common than we can imagine. Many people suffer from this anxiety disorder and live alone, without the help of relatives, friends and without professional help. There has been an increase in cases of panic attack in young people between 15 and 25 years of age, with women being the most affected.

What is a panic attack

A panic attack is that crisis where the person experiences high levels of anguish and anxiety with intense frightening thoughts that something serious can happen.

As indicated by Shirley Trickett (2009) in her book "How to overcome panic attacks" panic attacks are defined as "an aggravated response to an irrational fear"

At present The origin of this anxiety disorder is not known with certainty , although there are some studies where it is suggested that certain genetic characteristics play an important role in the development of these attacks. Such investigations do not enjoy unanimity among the scientific community, since there are voices that warn of other factors as precursors of crises.


According to Trickett (2009), these are some of the symptoms that a person presents when they suffer a panic attack :

  • Fear
  • Bewilderment
  • Dizziness
  • Pain in chest
  • Tingling in the body
  • Confusion
  • Tachycardia
  • Tremors
  • Choking sensations

Panic attacks can not be predicted because there is no time, no date, no place where they can manifest, resulting in a change in the social, work and family life of the person who suffers because of its spontaneous nature.

Many people with just the memory of an attack they have experienced in the past may become engulfed to the point of developing another anxious attack. Others live day to day with an excessive worry about suffering an attack at any moment, bringing this to their life a permanent psychological and emotional suffering. And there are also people who, fortunately, do not give excessive importance to these episodes and lead a fully normal life.


The diagnosis must be made by professionals, both in medical and psychological specialty, ruling out any somatic anomaly that may result in an anxiety disorder (total medical review),or that there is some type of medication or psychotropic substance that the person consumes and that triggers a panic attack.

Once the medical process has been completed and all previous causes have been ruled out, it will be the responsibility of the mental health professional to evaluate the person and warn if it meets the indicators to diagnose the case as a panic attack .


There are two types of treatment for anxiety crises, both of which can be combined:

a) Pharmacological : treatment with anxiolytics and antidepressants, obviously under medical prescription. Only a psychiatrist is authorized to prescribe what type of medication and during what period the dose of the drug will be administered.

b) Psychotherapy : in regard to psychological therapy, some schools such as cognitive-behavioral therapy have reported great effectiveness in this type of cases. The psychologist will be able to provide an intervention plan with the patient where he / she is suggested different ways to face a panic crisis and face any feared situation on the part of the patient with tools and resources to minimize anxiety.

For best results a combination of the two treatments is ideal and most advisable. Some professionals recommend other types of techniques that can complement the treatment, although they escape from the scientific field can be considered if the patient finds pleasure in practicing them such as yoga, meditation, etc.

The emotional support that can be provided to a person who is going through this type of case will always be important. As Sigmund Freud said: "Modern science has not produced a reassuring medicine as effective as kind words are."

Bibliographic references:

  • Trickett, S. (2009). How to overcome panic attacks. Hispanic - European Editorial. Barcelona, ​​Spain.

Heart Attack vs. Panic Attack (July 2024).

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