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Panic attack

Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are one of the manifestations of anxiety disorders. It is an episode of acute anxiety that appears suddenly and abruptly and can last from a few minutes to several hours. The subject then experiences intense anxiety, a feeling of immediate danger and unpleasant physical sensations (sweating, trembling, chest pain, etc.).


Symptoms of anxiety attacks occur suddenly and with high intensity. The following physical symptoms are usually present:

  • tachycardia (increased heart rate);

  • palpitations;

  • difficulty breathing;

  • trembling;

  • blurred vision;

  • Tinnitus (wheezing/buzzing);

  • nausea.

On a psychological level, the subjects concerned have fears accompanying their anxiety attacks. The fear of :

  • choking;

  • fainting;

  • dying;

  • going mad;

  • having a heart attack.



Several factors can trigger anxiety attacks (or panic attacks).
Among them, the following factors are generally included:

  • social or sentimental events (divorce, shocking event, dismissal…);

  • grief or serious illness;

  • substance use;

  • anxiety-provoking situations for the patient (plane, public transportation, crowds…);

  • taking or stopping medication.


Figures and data

Anxiety attacks can be experienced by anyone with an anxiety disorder. These disorders can affect children and adults throughout life. The prevalence of anxiety disorders in the general adult population is as follows:


Anxiety attacks can occur in all patients with an anxiety disorder. There is no foolproof method to prevent them, due to their sudden and unpredictable nature.

However, psychological support and possibly medication should be provided to help the patient better manage his or her stress in everyday life.


Treatments to reduce the frequency of anxiety attacks are usually psychotherapies that have been proven effective. This is the preferred alternative to the use of drug treatments. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is most often used in combination with other types of therapies (analytical, systemic, etc.).

There are a variety of medications that can be used by physicians to treat anxiety attacks. Antidepressants are often the first choice of treatments. It is also possible to use selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

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