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What are the symptoms of a panic attack?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Symptoms of a panic attack include increased heart rate, hyperventilating, sweating, and feeling closed in. Agoraphobia is the fear of experiencing these symptoms. Watch Dr. Oz discuss panic attacks.


David Tolin
Psychology
A panic attack, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5th, is a discrete period of intense fear or discomfort, in which four (or more) of the following symptoms develop abruptly and reach a peak within 10 minutes:
  • palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking
  • sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • feeling of choking
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • nausea or abdominal distress
  • feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
  • derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • fear of losing control or going crazy
  • fear of dying
  • paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • chills or hot flushes
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5th Edition a panic attack is described as an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and during which time four or more of the following symptoms occur. The abrupt surge can occur from a calm state or an anxious state: 
  1. Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate 
  2. Sweating 
  3. Trembling or shaking 
  4. Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering 
  5. Feeling of choking 
  6. Chest pain or discomfort 
  7. Nausea or abdominal distress 
  8. Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint 
  9. Chills or heat sensations 
  10. Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations) 
  11. Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself) 
  12. Fear of losing control or going crazy 
  13. Fear of losing control or going insane.
The primary symptom of a panic attack is a feeling of sudden, extreme apprehension, fear, or terror, often associated with feelings that a catastrophe is imminent. Physical symptoms may include shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, sweating, a sensation of smothering, and fear of going crazy or losing control. The symptoms are often so severe that people mistakenly believe they are having a heart attack; one study found that 22% of people who go to the emergency room with chest pains are experiencing panic attacks and have no cardiovascular problem.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.