“This is one example.” A panic attack can have all sorts of symptoms: shortness of breath, dizziness, heart palpitations , trembling, sweating, choking, nausea, numbness, flushes or chills, loss of one’s sense of reality, chest pain, fear of dying, and/or fear of going crazy. People who have frequent panic attacks (more than four in a month) or have persistent fear of having another attack for a month after an attack suffer from panic disorder. Breslau says, “It’s not simply that the two things go together, but it’s suggesting that smoking is playing a causal role.” According to Breslau, smoking increases a person’s lifetime risk of a panic attack by three to four times. The risk of a first-time panic attack goes down in people who have quit smoking, although the studies do not show whether quitting will eliminate all risk in people who have smoked. But people who smoke should quit now, advises Breslau, who is director of research in the psychiatry department of the Henry Ford Health System. She and Donald F. Klein, MD, of the New York State Psychiatric Institute published their findings in the December issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.
More: Panic Attacks More Common in Smokers
“The classic panic disorder presentation is the patient who arrives in an emergency room with chest pain,” said Goodstein. Someone having a panic attack will have difficulty breathing, be sweating, and look like he’s having a heart attack. And, added Goodstein, this may be just the first of a number of panic episodes. Other symptoms of panic attacks include a racing heart, shaking, choking, dizziness, feeling numb or experiencing a tingling sensation, nausea, and a sense of doom. Panic Disorder: Causes There may be a genetic basis to panic disorder that makes people prone to frequent panic attacks. Almost anything can trigger a panic attack. Severe, extreme fear or terror can strike at home, work, and even during sleep. Quite often, people with anxiety disorder often become so afraid of having a panic attack that they develop agoraphobia , another anxiety disorder that makes them afraid to leave their homes.
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