Panic Attacks and Agoraphobia: Signs, Symptoms, and Causes

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Everyone experiences anxiety. It’s a normal response to stressful and dangerous situations. However, anxiety can become overwhelming and lead to an anxiety disorder such as panic disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Panic Attacks

Someone who experiences a panic attack may think that she’s having a heart attack or is suffering from a life-threatening illness. The physical symptoms of a panic attack such as trouble breathing, tightness in one’s chest or throat, and hot flashes coincide with some symptoms of a heart attack. Most of the time panic attacks occur without warning. Other symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Intense fear of losing control
  • Sense of dying
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Hyperventilation
  • Chills
  • Nausea or abdominal cramping
  • Headaches

Some people who have a panic attack only have one or two throughout their lifetime. If someone experiences four panic attacks and fears having more in the future, he suffers from panic disorder. The Mayo Clinic reports that it is extremely important that anyone who has a panic attack seek medical attention, because the symptoms are closely related to serious medical conditions.

Another sign that someone suffers from panic disorder is avoiding places where the person has had panic attacks. For instance, a man who has a panic attack at the grocery store might refuse to go any grocery stores. This can lead to major issues in his daily living, because he has to rely on friends and family members to do the grocery shopping.

Causes of Panic Disorder

There isn’t one known cause of panic disorder. The Mayo Clinic reports that a combination of stress, genetics, and chemical imbalances in a person’s brain may lead to panic attacks. The symptoms of a panic attack closely mimic the fight or flight response when someone encounters a dangerous situation. Scientists and researchers don’t know why these symptoms occur when there isn’t danger present. Panic attacks can even happen when a person is sleeping, according to Helpguide.org.

Symptoms of Agoraphobia

People who suffer from panic disorder sometimes become agoraphobic. The main symptom of agoraphobia is the refusal to go to public places such as grocery stores, malls, and sporting events, because the person is afraid of having a panic attack in public. The person might fear that she won’t be able to get the help she needs if she has a panic attack. Agoraphobia is extremely debilitating, and people with this disorder have to rely on their friends and family members to meet their basic needs. Some people become so anxious that they won’t even leave their house.

If you or someone you know suffers from symptoms of panic disorder or agoraphobia, you should seek mental health treatment and medical treatment as soon as possible. The combination of therapy, medication, and self-help techniques can help you lead a more normal life.

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