Skip to content

    Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

    Font Size

    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

    What Is Agoraphobia?

    It’s not unusual to worry sometimes. But when your fears keep you from getting out into the world, and you avoid places because you think you’ll feel trapped and not be able to get help, you may have agoraphobia. With agoraphobia, you might worry when you are in: Public transportation (buses, trains, ships, or planes) Large, open spaces (parking lots, bridges) Closed-in spaces (stores, movie theaters) Crowds or standing in line Being outside your home alone You may be willing...

    Read the What Is Agoraphobia? 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

    Today on WebMD

    young leukemia patient
    Unhappy couple
    embarrassed woman
    Phobias frightened eyes
    stressed boy in classroom
    Distressed teen girl in dramatic lighting
    man hiding with phone
    chain watch