Panic attacks are unmistakable. You're involved in some ordinary aspect of life when suddenly your heart begins to pound and you hyperventilate, sweat, and tremble. You fear you are having a heart attack, going crazy, or even dying. Then, 10 minutes or so later, it's gone. What just happened? You have had a panic attack.
Panic attacks are fairly common, usually beginning between ages 15 and 25. If you have recurrent panic attacks, a persistent fear of subsequent attacks occurring, or if...
It is possible to have one
panic attack after another in waves for an extended period of time. This can
seem like one continuous attack. But if you have continuous symptoms that don't go away within an hour, you probably aren't having a panic attack. You
should seek medical care right away.
Symptoms of a panic attack may
Rapid breathing (hyperventilation), shortness of breath, or a feeling
of choking or being smothered.
A pounding or racing heart or an irregular
Shaking, trembling, or feeling lightheaded or dizzy.
Sweating, chills, or hot flashes.
Nausea or an upset stomach.
Numbness or tingling.
Fear that you are going to die, lose control, or "go
Feelings of being detached from yourself or from
The symptoms of a panic
attack can be similar to those of a heart attack. Many people seek emergency
medical treatment for a panic attack for this reason. If you have chest pain
symptoms of a heart attack, get medical
treatment right away. For more information, see the topic
Panic attacks may begin
without a trigger. Or they can be linked to certain situations, such as being in
large crowds of people in restaurants or stadiums. Sometimes just knowing that you'll be in a certain situation can cause severe anxiety.
who have panic attacks often learn to avoid situations that they fear
will trigger a panic attack or situations where they will not be able to escape
easily if a panic attack occurs. If this pattern of avoidance and anxiety is severe,
it can become
agoraphobia, an intense and irrational fear of being in public places.
Isolating yourself and avoiding social situations can interfere with your
ability to work. It can also harm your relationships, especially with your family members and
Symptoms in children
Panic attacks aren't common
in children or younger teens. But children who have panic disorder or panic
attacks often have other symptoms in addition to those listed above.
be overly afraid of common objects such as bugs.
They may worry too much about
monsters or about going to bed alone.
They may refuse to go to school or
become unusually upset when they are separated from a parent.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
May 17, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this