If you have the sudden onset of four or more of the following symptoms, you may be having a panic attack:
Sudden high anxiety with or without a cause
A "smothering" sensation or shortness of breath
A feeling of choking
Chest pain or discomfort
Dizziness or faintness
A sense of unreality
A fear of going crazy or losing control
A fear of dying
Numbness or tingling
Chills or hot flashes
An isolated panic attack, while extremely unpleasant, is not uncommon or life-threatening. Panic disorder and panic attacks are not the same thing; panic disorder refers to repeat panic attacks along with worry and concern about having repeat attacks. Panic attacks can be a symptom of other anxiety disorders as well.
You may think you're having a heart attack, and it's true that some of the symptoms can be similar. However, most people having a panic attack have had one before, triggered by a similar event or situation.
The chest pain of a panic attack usually stays in the mid-chest area (the pain of a heart attack commonly moves toward the left arm or jaw). You may also have rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, and fear. A panic attack usually lasts only a few minutes, comes suddenly and disappears suddenly, but leaves you exhausted.