Signs and Symptoms of Panic Attacks

The signs and symptoms of panic attacks are the same regardless of whether you have panic disorder , or a random panic attack.

Many people have a panic attack at some point in their life. People with anxiety disorders have them more frequently and people with the actual diagnosis of panic disorder have them without triggers and at unexpected times.

What do you think of when you hear the word panic?

I think of :

  • the bombing of the twin towers and remember the images that I saw on the TV that day.
  • or what must happen when there is a tornado or tsunami and everyone has a few minutes to find safety for themselves and their loved ones.
  • or a dangerous zoo animal that has somehow gotten free and is chasing people around the zoo!
  • or fire in a small crowded place where everyone is trying to find away to escape and avoid being trampled.

These are all situations that would inspire anyone to panic. However panic attacks usually do not occur during natural disasters or in life or death situations.

They occur in fairly innocuous situations such as crowded places, or before a test, or when trying to sleep. The signs and symptoms of panic attack are often physiologically triggered by the same mechanisms that would trigger the adrenaline rush we feel in a real life or death situation.

A panic attack is certainly an attack of overreacting!

A panic attack occurs when your body and mind are tricked into feeling like you are in danger, when you are not.

In fact it is fairly common for people can be so convinced that they are in danger of dying that they will go to the hospital!

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Panic Attacks

As with all manifestations of anxiety, panic attacks have a strong physical component. The actual symptoms vary but panic attacks are almost always accompanied by unpleasant physical sensations.

Many people describe a pounding heart palpitations, pounding or a rapid heartbeat as a component of a panic attack.

Some panic attack sufferers describe experiencing trembling, shaking, sweating, or changes in temperature such as chills and hot flashes. Others describe signs and symptoms of their panic attack as numbness or tingling in certain body parts. Still others feel like they are choking, have pain or trouble breathing chest pain or other chest discomfort. Some report signs and symptoms of their panic attacks as stomach pain or nausea, dizziness and or faintness.

Signs and Symptoms of Panic Attacks: Fears and Thoughts

Panic attacks are often accompanied by intense fear. People who have panic attacks frequently feel afraid that they will die.

They may also be fearful that they are going to have a heart attack, their heart will stop, they will choke or that they are physically ill. Many fear they will lose control, will be paralyzed, have a stroke, pass out or that go insane. People who are having a panic attack may feel like they are in great danger and need to escape.

Many people will do impulsive things to escape, and it can become a dangerous situation for them because the ability to reason is lost during a panic attack.

Panic attacks can occur while driving, while in public, and while at home. People will sometimes avoid the places they had a panic attack thus leading to further problems. Panic attacks usually occur for 10 -20 minutes but can feel like a lifetime!It can be hard to stay on top of panic disorder treatment and research news. Sorting through the best thing to do for panic attacks is challenging and complicated. If you are looking for help in these areas you need some guidance

To make life easier for you, I've set up a process that will automatically update this page with the latest in research news around the world. Each day I read through the summaries of research and news to keep updated on whats happening with anxiety. I think its important to share!

Be sure to bookmark this page so that you can easily stay up to date, or sign up for our site RSS feed by clicking on one of the orange buttons at the left.

From time to time, Ill be commenting on panic disorder treatment and research items and adding it to my topic archive. I'm also including commentary from others here.

And, you can even add your own information too. If you see important anxiety research that isn't included on this page, just skip below the news summary below, and add the details.


Craske, M. G. (2006). Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic Therapists Guide. Oxford University Press.

Rachman, S. a. (2004). Panic Disorder: The Facts. Oxford University Press.

Information is also adapted from the DSM IV criteria for Panic Attack

Learn about

Learn about panic atacks and heart rate here

Learn about panic attacks and self help here

Learn about panic attacks and the thyroid here

Learn about anxiety and chest pain

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