Panic attack  

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"As I emerged from the porch of Santa Croce, I was seized with a fierce palpitation of the heart (that same symptom which, in Berlin, is referred to as an attack of the nerves); the well-spring of life was dried up within me, and I walked in constant fear of falling to the ground."--Rome, Naples, and Florence (1817) by Stendhal

Illustration: Laocoön and His Sons ("Clamores horrendos" detail), photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen.
Illustration: Laocoön and His Sons ("Clamores horrendos" detail), photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen.

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A panic attack is a period of incredibly intense, often temporarily debilitating, sense of extreme fear or psychological distress, typically of abrupt onset. Though it is often a purely terrifying feeling to the sufferer, panic attacks are actually an evolutionary body response often known as the fight-or-flight response occurring out of context. The most common symptoms may include trembling, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain (or chest tightness), sweating, nausea, dizziness (or slight vertigo), light-headedness, hyperventilation, paresthesias (tingling sensations), and sensations of choking, smothering and dreamlike and disconnected sensations. During a panic attack, the body typically releases large amounts of adrenaline into the bloodstream. First time panic attacks are usually one of the worst experiences of a person's life. Typically, first time sufferers of a panic attack truly believe they are dying, going insane or having a heart attack. Repeated and seemingly unprovoked panic attacks may be a sign of Panic Disorder, but panic attacks are associated with other anxiety disorders as well. For example, people who suffer from phobias may experience panic attacks upon exposure to certain triggers.

People with panic disorder often can be successfully treated with therapy and/or anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants. Panic attacks can be caused by very common problems such as low blood sugar hypoglycemia, or the overuse of caffeine or nicotine.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Panic attack" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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