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Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can be frightening and debilitating. Fortunately, panic attacks are well understood and there a number of evidence based effective treatments.

What is a panic attack?


According to the DSM-5 criteria, a panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes. During this anxious state, many physical symptoms can be experienced such as:


-Palpitations or accelerated heart rate


-Trembling or shaking

-Sensations of shortness of breath

-Feelings of choking

-Chest pain or discomfort

-Nausea or abdominal distress

-Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

-Chills or heat sensations

-Numbing or tingling sensations

-Feeling detached from self or reality

-Fear of losing control or going crazy

-Fear of dying


Panic attacks can occur expectedly or unexpectedly. When they are expected, it is usually when there is an obvious cue or trigger. When they occur unexpectedly there isn’t an obvious trigger or cue at the time they occur. Having panic attacks can be significantly distressing and frightening.  It is normal to experience maybe one or two panic attacks in your lifetime and no longer experience them.


 If you experience panic attacks frequently and they are unexpected, you may have developed a panic disorder. While panic disorder is not life-threatening, treatment is available to better manage them. In some cases, panic attacks may be a sign of underlying medical conditions, and consulting with your primary care physician may be beneficial. Whether or not you have an underlying medical condition, there are treatment options to manage and reduce panic attacks.



At Houston Therapy, our anxiety therapists and counselors specialize in working with a wide range of anxiety-related concerns. If you believe that you may be experiencing panic attacks, please contact us to discuss treatment options.

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