What is a Panic Attack?

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Panic attacks are a type of anxiety disorder. They are characterized by a sudden, intense fear of death or serious injury. The symptoms of a panic attack can be very similar to those of other anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, they are not the same. Panic attacks do not occur in response to a specific event or situation. Instead, panic attacks occur when a person experiences an overwhelming sense of fear and is unable to control his or her body’s reaction to that fear. This can happen in a variety of ways, including when the person is under stress, when he or she is in an unfamiliar environment, or when there is an unexpected change in the environment. In addition to the physical symptoms described above, people with panic disorders also experience a range of psychological symptoms. These symptoms can include anxiety, depression, irritability, and a loss of control over one’s life. People who have a history of mental health problems are more likely to develop a mental illness than those who are healthy. For more information, see the Mental Illness and Mental Health section of the NCHS website at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/topics/mentalhealth/index.htm.

How is Panic Disorder Diagnosed and Treated? What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Panic Attacks? How Do I Know If I Have a Phobia of Death or Serious Injury? Is Panic an Anxiety Disorder or a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Why Do Some People With Panic Disorders Have Panic-Like Symptoms?

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), is the most widely used diagnostic tool for diagnosing and treating mental disorders. It is based on the best available scientific evidence about the nature, causes, prevalence, risk factors, severity, comorbidity, co-morbidities, prognosis, treatment options, and prognostic factors for each mental disorder, as well as for substance use disorders (SUDs). The DSM-IV-TR, published in 1994, was the first edition to include a new chapter on panic and related disorders and was revised in 2000 to reflect the latest scientific knowledge and advances in diagnosis and treatment. The following information is intended to help you better understand the symptoms and signs of panic. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your healthcare provider or your local health department. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms or signs, you must seek immediate medical attention. You may also want to talk to your family doctor, a psychiatrist, or another medical professional.

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