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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

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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.

Recommended Related to Anxiety Panic

Understanding Generalized Anxiety Disorder -- Diagnosis and Treatment

The first step is to rule out the possibility that your symptoms are being caused by a medical condition that is not psychiatric. Among the conditions that produce symptoms similar to those of anxiety are hyperthyroidism or other endocrine problems, too much or too little calcium, low blood sugar, and certain heart problems. Certain medicines also can sometimes cause anxiety. A thorough evaluation by your health care provider will determine if any of these conditions are the cause of your symptoms...

Read the Understanding Generalized Anxiety Disorder -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

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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