Definition of a Panic Attack:

A sudden overwhelming feeling of acute and disabling anxiety.

What are the symptoms of a panic attack?

If you have four or more of the following symptoms, you may be having a panic attack:

  • Sudden high level of anxiety - with or without a cause
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • A ‘smothering’ sensation
  • A feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • A sense of unreality
  • A fear of dying
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Chills or hot flushes

An isolated panic attack, while extremely unpleasant, is not uncommon or life-threatening. Panic disorder and panic attacks are not the same thing. All panic disorders have panic attacks as a symptom but having a panic attack does not mean you have panic disorders. Panic attacks can be a symptom of other anxiety disorders as well. 

You may think you're having a heart attack -- and it's true that 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). It is often accompanied by rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, and fear. A panic attack usually lasts only a few minutes, comes suddenly and leaves suddenly, but leaves one exhausted