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Panic Attacks

Panic Attacks/Panic Disorder

Panic attacks are characterized by an abrupt surge of intense fear, anxiety or discomfort that peaks rapidly. Sometimes, these attacks will appear unexpectedly. Symptoms of panic attacks include, increased heart-rate, heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath or smothering, choking, chest discomfort, abdominal distress, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, chills or hot flashes, tingling of extremities, feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself, fear of losing control or “going crazy.”

Panic attacks present on a continuum of mild to severe frequency and intensity. They can occur a few times a month up to many times a day. Their intensity can range from minor attacks that a person can hide fairly easily to severely debilitating attacks that interfere with fulfilling work or academic obligations. Some panic attacks even result in emergency room visits because people fear that they are having a heart-attack.

Although the prevalence of a formal diagnosis of panic disorder in North America is approximately 5%, it is noteworthy that almost 100% of the population has had at least one panic attack sometime during their lifetime.

Anxiety disorders, particularly Panic Disorder (characterized by frequent panic attacks), respond very well to established psychological intervention approaches such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as well as others.

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