Panic Attacks

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It’s normal to feel overwhelmed or anxious at times, but if your feelings of panic are sudden and intense enough to disrupt your day-to-day life on a regular basis, you may be experiencing panic attacks.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a brief, intense period of experiencing overwhelming fear or anxiety. Panic attacks often occur suddenly and can even happen at times when you’ve been feeling calm otherwise. Panic attacks tend to include both psychological symptoms and physiological ones, such as shortness of breath.

Panic attacks are sometimes a symptom of a broader mental health condition called panic disorder. However, they can also occur on their own or as part of a different mental health condition, such as agoraphobia, postpartum anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Prevalence of panic attacks

Because panic attacks are generally considered to be part of other mental health conditions, it’s difficult to know exactly how common they are. However, panic disorder, which is a pattern of frequent panic attacks, is known to be relatively common in the United States. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 2–3% of adults in the United States experienced panic disorder in a given year.

Additionally, panic disorder is about twice as common for women as for men.

Symptoms of panic attacks

Panic attacks may be different for different people, but they generally include some psychological symptoms and some physiological ones. The most common symptoms include:

Usually, panic attacks intensify quickly and then symptoms begin to go away within about ten minutes.

Types of panic attacks

Panic attacks all share similar symptoms, but they can occur as part of a number of different broader mental health conditions. These conditions include:

For some people, panic attacks might also occur on their own, especially in response to a specific stressful situation.

What to do if you’re experiencing panic attacks

If you’re experiencing panic attacks, there are a number of options that you may find helpful.

How to find a therapist for panic attacks

Determine which therapy type(s) appeals to you

For example, Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often considered to be the most helpful kind of psychotherapy for panic attacks. Some other kinds of psychotherapy you might consider include:

Prioritize personal fit

As with any therapy, it’s important to make sure that your therapist is a good fit for your unique needs. Be sure to evaluate the following in your initial calls with therapists:

Find therapists for panic attacks near you

Find therapists who treat panic attacks, and other anxiety symptoms, on Zencare, below. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.