Panic Attacks: Symptoms and What to Expect

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A panic attack is an episode of extreme anxiety or stress that is usually accompanied by multiple physical symptoms. One of the most problematic aspects of panic attacks is that the symptoms will often appear to mimic the symptoms of other conditions – such as heart attacks. This can then lead to the sufferer becoming even more anxious and thus the symptoms escalating.

Here we will look at the common panic attack symptoms so that you can more easily identify when you might be experiencing one and so that you have a better understanding of precisely what is going on. This is the first step towards successful getting panic attacks back under control.

Panic Attacks – Symptoms and Causes

A panic attack is essentially caused by the sympathetic nervous system triggering the ‘fight or flight response’ that is normally reserved for situations where we are facing extreme threats. Because there is often no obvious threat in the case of a panic attack, this then causes the sufferer to become more anxious – either because they don’t know what’s happening, or because they are scared of the prospect of getting a panic attack in and of itself.

The specific symptoms of panic attacks vary from person to person and case to case. If you are experiencing a panic attack then you will notice some of the following symptoms, though not always all of them necessarily:

  • Feeling of fear, dread and ‘impending doom’
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Racing heart and palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hyperventilation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling of choking
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Pacing
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sickness
  • Upset stomach
  • Fear of dying
  • Surreality
  • Detachment
  • Out of body experiences

If you experience any of these panic attack symptoms then you need to recognize them for what they are and try to control your breathing. At the same time, remind yourself that the symptoms will pass (though it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours) and that you aren’t in any immediate danger. While it might seem impossible at first, your ultimately objective is to completely ‘ignore’ the anxiety so that it fades into the background – the more you focus on it, the more severe the symptoms will become.

If you regularly experience panic attacks, symptoms or similar problems, then you should speak to your local GP and consider getting professional therapy from a cognitive behavioral therapist.

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About the author

Keith Hillman
Keith Hillman

Keith Hillman is a full time writer specializing in psychology as well as the broader health niche. He has a BSc degree in psychology from Surrey University, where he particularly focused on neuroscience and biological psychology. Since then, he has written countless articles on a range of topics within psychology for numerous of magazines and websites. He continues to be an avid reader of the latest studies and books on the subject, as well as self-development literature.

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Keith Hillman

Keith Hillman

Keith Hillman is a full time writer specializing in psychology as well as the broader health niche. He has a BSc degree in psychology from Surrey University, where he particularly focused on neuroscience and biological psychology. Since then, he has written countless articles on a range of topics within psychology for numerous of magazines and websites. He continues to be an avid reader of the latest studies and books on the subject, as well as self-development literature.