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    Understanding Panic Attack -- Symptoms

    What Are the Symptoms of a Panic Attack?

    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
    • Heart palpitations
    • Sweating
    • Shaking
    • A "smothering" sensation or shortness of breath
    • A feeling of choking
    • Chest pain or discomfort
    • Nausea
    • 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.

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    How well phobia treatment will work depends partly on the severity of the phobia. Though some phobias are never completely cured, therapy can help many people learn to function effectively. Types of therapy include: Desensitization Flooding -- prolonged exposure to a fearful situation or experience Graded exposures Biofeedback Attending phobia clinics and support groups has also helped many people overcome their fears. In addition, medication may help some people overcome...

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    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.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on February 27, 2015

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