How a panic attack can make you think you’re having a heart attack

When a perfectly healthy person begins to sweat profusely, the heart begins racing, and it feels impossible to take a breath, the first concern is, heart attack. In this case, it was a panic attack, but a word of warning, just because you may think you’re having a panic attack; don’t ignore the warnings of pending heart problems.

A panic attack can be a terrifying experience; they happen with no warning, and they happen for no apparent reason. The experience is one of extreme nervousness, and the attacks can often last for 10 minutes or more.

Attacks of this nature affect almost 2.5 million Americans. It will usually manifest itself during the late teens, and it strikes twice as many women as it does men. A panic attack is very different than any other psychic disorder because the attacks’ happen very suddenly, appear to have no provocation and can be disabling. Researchers tend to think that an attack is a combination of factors, some biological, others environmental, including family history. It appears that panic attacks can run in families.

Everyone responds to stress; stress can be caused by work-related issues, perhaps a big examination or making an important decision. Normally, people get through it with no ill effects. This is not the case for those who suffer panic attacks; even moderate pressure can result in a physical reaction as if the person was about to fall from a cliff or be attacked by a wild animal. It is a full-blown fight or flight experience.

Once a person has had an attack, they may develop other irrational fears such as riding on an elevator, a car or going into a crowded store. These phobias have a tendency to drive the person away from the situations that cause the anxiety. Eventually, the anxiety of having another panic attack reaches the point where even the thoughts of having one create one. It may reach a point where the individual will not leave the sanctity of his own home for fear of having an attack. When it reaches this point, the individual has agoraphobia.

What are the symptoms?

Earlier, we described some of the symptoms, there are others; numbness in the hands, hot flashes or chills, trembling, shaking and a fear of dying on the spot. The attack usually is over quickly, but it is one of the most distressing things that can happen to a person. Most people, once they have had one panic attack, will have others. When a person has repeated attacks with no physical or emotional cause, he is said to have panic disorder. Other problems that can come from panic attacks are schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Panic attack is a debilitating mental disorder that can be treated by the specialists at Cedar Hills Hospital. Cedar Hills is a private psychiatric care center specializing in mental health and chemical dependency.