So-called panic attacks can come at any time, even during sleep. Episodes are usually characterized by sudden feelings of terror with pounding heart, sweatiness, weakness, faintness, or dizziness. During these attacks the individual may flush or feel chilled, their hands may tingle or feel numb, and they may experience nausea, chest pain, or smothering sensations.
These fear-symptoms themselves may intensify the fear, as the person may believe they are having a heart attack or going crazy. Agoraphobia* is often a part of the syndrome. Because these times of panic are so intense and overwhelming, and because there is usually no way to predict when they will occur, there is often a secondary problem of uneasiness or dread.
Panic Disorder is highly treatable through psychotherapy. Cognitive behavior therapy is the treatment of choice, where methods of self-calming are learned to avoid letting the panicky feelings get out of control. This helps the person recognize the thoughts that fuel the panic, and substitute more rational assessments of the situation. Controlled breathing is also an effective help. Progressive desensitization (exposure therapy) is helpful to develop increasing tolerance to the trigger situation(s). Psychotropic medication is also usually quite effective in alleviating symptoms when they occur.