Panic attacks are acute but intense episodes of fear that manifest themselves physically, psychologically, and emotionally. The onset of a panic attack is usually very quick, and the symptoms can vary from a couple of minutes before peaking and then decreasing; or even up to an hour (and in extreme cases slightly longer) before the attack peaks and decreases.
Because panic attacks are different for each individual – and recurring attacks can even vary slightly for one individual – many wonder how long panic attacks actually last, and what the short term effects vs. the long term effects of panic attacks can be. Here is a closer look.
Short Term Side-Effects
Physical: The short term physical symptoms of panic are displayed in a variety of different ways. It may be different for each person, and for each separate episode of a panic attack. The most common physical symptoms are: shortness of breath, choking sensation, or a feeling that it’s difficult to breathe; rapid heart rate, chest pains, a feeling that you are having a heart attack; hot or cold flashes and/or tingling in the extremities; dizziness, nausea, and a feeling of being faint.
These symptoms manifest quite rapidly, although the onset can also be slow. The feelings usually intensify and then peak in a couple of minutes.
Psychological and Emotional: Some of the short term psychological/ emotional effects of panic disorder include feelings and fears of losing your mind, the feeling or fear of dying, feeling disconnected from yourself and/ or others, and even feeling disconnected from reality as though nothing is real. This is accompanied by feelings of intense fear, hopeless, danger, and depression.
The psychological and emotional symptoms of anxiety can be overwhelming, and should not be looked on lightly. If someone you know is having a panic attack, please do your best to reassure them, and move their thoughts from those of hopelessness and fear to thoughts of encouragement and positivity.
When asking how long panic attacks last, it’s important to consider if there are any long term side-affects, and what they may be.
Long Term Side–Effects
Physical: Panic attacks rarely have any sort of long-term effect on a sufferer’s physical health. However, stress – which can easily lead to or cause panic attacks – can negatively impact the body in the long run. From abnormal blood pressure to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stress can impact the entire body negatively, all whilst increasing the risk of further panic attacks.
It should be noted that in some cases recurring panic attacks (known as panic disorder) may possibly increase the risk of heart disease, especially in women. Speak to a health care provider if you feel that you need this checked out.
Psychological and Emotional: Panic attacks, and especially panic disorder, are far more likely to cause long term psychological/ emotional issues than physical. Once someone suffers from a panic disorder, there is usually a fear of it happening again that prevails over the sufferer’s life.
Because of this, sufferers can become withdrawn, anxious, and isolated. Depression may follow as a result of this, and this can spiral into suicidal feelings or manifest in other dangerous mental disorders (self-harming, addictions, and eating disorders for example).
While this certainly isn’t common, it’s completely possible. Professional help must be sought in this case. Therapists will be able to assist the sufferer by teaching them various coping methods that can be implemented into a daily lifestyle, and cause positive changes.
Panic attacks can be completely overcome and do not ever have to recur if the correct support and advice are received, and if the sufferer is willing to combat the disorder.
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