Feeling afraid is a common symptom of
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Having intense fear that comes on suddenly could mean you're having a
panic attack. This sudden fear may come without
warning or without any obvious reason. Or a panic attack may happen when
something reminds you of your trauma.
During a panic attack, you
may be afraid of dying or afraid of losing control of yourself. It may seem
like things happening around you aren't real. An attack usually lasts from 5 to
20 minutes but may last even longer, up to a few hours. You have the most
anxiety about 10 minutes after the attack starts.
You may have
physical symptoms, including:
If you've had more than one panic attack, or if you feel
worried about the next time a panic attack will happen, then you may have
panic disorder. Worrying about future panic attacks
can cause stress and interfere with your life. You may try to avoid things that
bring back memories of your traumatic event.
Talk to your doctor or health professional if
you've had panic attacks or if you think you may have panic disorder. You will
work together to find the best way to treat the panic attacks and PTSD.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy or medicine may help you
have less fear. This can be used to treat both panic attacks and PTSD.
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, you learn relaxation techniques that can
help you cope with the physical symptoms of panic attacks. This therapy helps
you understand how your thoughts and your reaction to your memories cause you
to feel stress. You may do "exposure" exercises in which you focus on stressful
memories until you can overcome your fearful reaction.
Antidepressants and other medicines also are used to treat panic
For more information, see the topics
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and
Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder.
January 9, 2013
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Jessica Hamblen, PhD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
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