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What medical conditions can look like a panic attack?

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A panic attack tends to have clear, intense, physical symptoms -- a pounding heart, shortness of breath, and so on. But a medical condition called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can closely mirror a panic attack. GAD is when you have a hard time controlling your worry, and you struggle to keep your anxiety in check.

Sometimes, what you think might be a panic attack can come from allergic reactions and heart and lung diseases. And if you have a tendency to panic, some health problems -- like low blood sugar, asthma, or an overactive thyroid -- can trigger a full-blown panic attack.

SOURCES:

HelpGuide.org: "Panic Attack and Panic Disorder."

American Psychological Association: "Answers to Your Questions about Panic Disorder."

This Way Up: "Panicked."

Paul Nestadt, MD, supervising psychiatrist, Johns Hopkins Hospital Anxiety Disorders Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medical Institution.

University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine: "Panic Disorder."

Anxiety and Depression Society of America: "Generalized Anxiety Disorder."

American Cancer Society: "Anxiety, Fear, and Depression."

FamilyDoctor.org: "Panic Disorder."

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: "Am I having a panic attack or a heart attack?"

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari on June 12, 2017

SOURCES:

HelpGuide.org: "Panic Attack and Panic Disorder."

American Psychological Association: "Answers to Your Questions about Panic Disorder."

This Way Up: "Panicked."

Paul Nestadt, MD, supervising psychiatrist, Johns Hopkins Hospital Anxiety Disorders Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medical Institution.

University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine: "Panic Disorder."

Anxiety and Depression Society of America: "Generalized Anxiety Disorder."

American Cancer Society: "Anxiety, Fear, and Depression."

FamilyDoctor.org: "Panic Disorder."

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: "Am I having a panic attack or a heart attack?"

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari on June 12, 2017

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What does a panic attack feel like?

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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