ZocdocAnswersAre anxiety attacks a symptom of something else?

Question

Are anxiety attacks a symptom of something else?

Hello. I have frequent anxiety attacks. Could this be a symptom of something worse?

Answer

Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, can be very frightening. They are characterized by the sudden onset of fear or apprehension and are generally brief. They usually reach their peak within 10 minutes and then gradually subside. Symptoms include racing heart rate, fast breathing, sweating, a feeling of doom, nausea and lightheadedness. Many people feel like they are having a heart attack the first time they have a panic attack. If you have repeated panic attacks you are suffering from panic disorder. Panic attacks can sometimes be a symptom of another problem, however, sometimes they occur on their own. Some people suffer from panic attacks during a period of depression or grief. They can be situational. They have been shown to be hereditary (run in families). Much more rarely panic attacks can be a symptom of a medical disorder such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperthyroidism, or mitral valve prolapse. They can also rarely be a side effect of certain medications such as ritalin. It is very important to discuss your frequent anxiety attacks with your primary care doctor or psychiatrist. Anxiety attacks are usually treated with a combination of behavioral therapy and medication, if severe.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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