A panic attack can be a terrifying experience. Panic attacks are characterised by rapid and severe physical changes such as sweating, feeling faint or nauseous, rapid heartbeat, trembling or weakness, breathing difficulty and chest pain. In severe cases it can feel as though you are having a heart attack or losing consciousness.
These symptoms are a natural response to fear or stress, but in the case of a panic attack, they become amplified and extreme. To the person experiencing the panic attack it seems these symptoms are beyond control. Everyone who experiences panic attacks will have a different experience, but in general most attacks will happen suddenly and last from five to fifteen minutes. Often they can occur at night, interrupting sleep and causing confusion and upset.
Some people may never experience a panic attack, but for others they can occur occasionally, or as frequently as several times a week. In some cases they are linked to a particular problem the individual is facing, but in other cases they can seem to strike at random.