13 Panic Attack Symptoms: How To Recognize One

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Have you ever had an overwhelming, intense surge of fear and anxiety, which caused you to have feelings of chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, and or numbness? If so, you may have had a panic attack and if you did, trust me, you are not alone. Today, we're going to talk about panic attack symptoms and how to know when it's time to seek treatment.


What Is A Panic Attack?

A panic attack is an intense, overwhelming, sudden feeling of fear and anxiety. You get this intense feeling of an imminent threat or danger or fear. You get a sudden rush of impending doom.


What Does It Feel Like When You're Having A Panic Attack?

Well, it can literally feel like you're about to die.  You can have chest pain, shortness of breath, numbness, tingling, and or sweating. That's why many people who are having panic attacks end up going to the emergency room. Most panic attacks peak over a matter of minutes and they'll last for less than 30 minutes, but that time or the total duration of the attack can vary. So, panic attacks can actually last from a matter of seconds to hours.


Have You Ever Had A Panic Attack? If So, Please Comment Down Below And Please Share Your Symptoms Of A Panic Attack.


How Do You Know If You're Having A Panic Attack?

Well, there's actually a very specific diagnosis. According to the DSM-5, 5th edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders you have to have at least 4 of 13 symptoms to be having a panic attack.


panic attack symptoms

Panic Attack Symptoms:

1. A Pounding Heart Or Chest Palpitations

Now, I don't mean a pounding heart after you just finished going for a jog, or sprinting up the stairs. I mean, if you're pretty much in a restful position, and all of a sudden you feel your heart palpitating, or you feel a pounding.

2. Chest Pain or Discomfort

3. Sweating

Again, not after intense exercise or when the room is really hot. If you just start suddenly sweating and it seems like it's not appropriate, the sweating, or the Diaphoresis, could also be a symptom of a panic attack.

Other symptoms include:

4. Trembling

5. Shortness of Breath

6. Nausea

7. Dizziness

8. Chills

9. Numbness

10. A Feeling of Choking

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11. Feelings of Being Detached from One's Self

Feeling a sense of detachment from yourself can be a symptom. If you feel like you are outside of yourself looking in, almost an out of body experience, that could be a symptom.

12. Fear of Losing Control

13. Fears of Dying

It's tricky because you can be having many of these symptoms at one time, and so it may not be easy to categorize if you're having exactly 4 of these symptoms. For example, if you are feeling chest pain, shortness of breath, and numbness, then, it's very likely that you could also be trembling, but not notice. At any rate, for an official diagnosis of a panic attack, you need to have at least 4 of these 13 symptoms.

Now that we have identified the symptoms of a panic attack in the actual diagnosis of a panic attack, you may now realize that yes, you have had a panic attack before. But if you've had only one or two panic attacks in a lifetime, especially if the panic attacks were surrounding an identifiable, stressful situation, then that's actually quite common. For example, if you got a panic attack after you were in a truly dangerous situation, or if you were about to give a major speech, or had a really big life-changing interview, and got a panic attack, well, those are real stressors, and yes, it's common to have one or two panic attacks.

It becomes an issue if your panic attacks are recurring. If they're recurring, and if you start to change your behavior, or if you start to exhibit avoidance behavior to prevent yourself from having a panic attack, then, the panic attack may actually be a panic disorder.


What Is A Panic Disorder?

You may actually have a panic disorder when you have recurrent panic attacks causing you to avoid doing behaviors that you think may elicit a panic attack. It may cause you to want to avoid going shopping or it might cause you to want to avoid being around certain people, and you may have certain expected triggers.  Triggers that you know may cause you to have a panic attack. So, now you have avoidance behavior, trying not to be around those things but then you may also have unexpected triggers with a panic attack where you're just in a situation that seems calm, seems non-stressful, but you still have a panic attack.

You may wake up from your sleep with a panic attack. All of this means that you could have a panic disorder. Now, if this is the case, it's time to seek treatment and yes, there is treatment for panic attacks and panic disorders.





What you want to do is, again, be sure you identify and treat early because you don't want to progress to yet another disorder, Agoraphobia. You may have heard of Agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is when you have such avoidance behavior that you have an extreme, some would say irrational fear, of open spaces, and public or crowded places.

Agoraphobia may make it so you don't want to go anywhere. You may not want to ever go to a shopping mall. You may not ever want to go to a post office. You may not want to ride public transit even if you have to. You may not want to get on a plane or a train. You may not want to get on a bus. You may avoid so many things that it really makes having a regular routine, or functional life, a near impossibility.

Agoraphobia may cause you to actually never want to leave your house because you don't want to be anywhere where you can't escape. Of note, you can have panic attacks, or panic disorders, in the setting of other disorders. You can have panic disorder in the setting of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. You can have panic disorder in the setting of substance abuse.


Panic Attack Treatment

The good news is that there is treatment for panic attacks and panic disorders. You can be treated with psychotherapy or medication if needed. There is something called cognitive behavior therapy, a type of psychotherapy, where you learn more about your panic attacks. You learn about your triggers, and what causes you to have your panic attacks, and learn to monitor them.

You can keep a journal and you really talk about the environment, how you feel the things that surround the panic attacks. There are also certain behavioral techniques, such as breathing, or relaxation techniques. Things that can perhaps help you to avoid a panic attack if you feel it coming. If needed, you may also be treated with medications. Certain things like the SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. You may even need Benzodiazepines.

The important thing is to identify the problem so that you can treat or manage the problem. If, indeed, you are a person having recurrent panic attacks, or you feel like you have a panic disorder, please contact your physician. Seek treatment and find out your options. I hope you found this information about panic attack symptoms helpful.  Also, if you have not done so already, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and hit that notification button so you'll be among the first to know when I release new content. Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram at Dr.Frita. Meanwhile, I want you to do your absolute best to live your healthiest, happiest life.


Dr. Frita - Frita McRae Fisher, M.D.
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  1. Carolann Gaynor on March 19, 2021 at 5:06 pm

    comes on suddenly…….i begin to feel like something is wrong…….today my blood pressure went up and i got weak and had to breath into a paper bag……feels like you are dying………lots of stress in my life right now, just want this to go……

    • Otto Oppenheimer on April 20, 2021 at 2:24 pm

      You’re not alone my friend my first time was the worst.

  2. Roger on April 2, 2021 at 5:10 am

    Oh gosh, I first had what I consider to be my first panic attack several years ago, Now I am feeling that is causing me to be debilitated. My test, do severe exercise and also breathe in deeply and hold breathe for as long as possible. The chest pains normally go, as do other feelings but I shall now have to see the doctor. My BP is high, but of course with a panic attack it will be. I am 75 and am industrially injured with a back problem. I have problems walking any distance. However I KNOW I am OK as for example on roof replacing galvanised sheeting, going up ladder to fix some cupboards, all signs that I am sort of OK. But Frightening, you bet, waking up in the night with serious palpitations and fear of dread, unable to breathe properly. So get up do some exercise and then watch some good TV. Also I am determined to lose some weight. I am 6’3″ and 120KG, ride my motorcycles and do things physically if I can. Probably one of the worst of Debilitating conditions yet one keeps searching for answers for the pains.

  3. A.person on May 11, 2021 at 11:08 am

    I know the feeling, had some terrible news about my brother earlier. Then within a short while I was trembling, feeling sick, sweaty but cold, raging thirst and some confusion. Think it lasted about 30 minutes, was very unpleasant in keeping with how things have gone today. Life sucks sometimes.

  4. Chance on June 24, 2021 at 5:22 pm

    I started having panic attacks since Covid. I can’t believe how much it’s affected me. I had 2 today, I had trouble breathing and just started crying. I feel like I’m just going to die and just feel very alone. I need help but I’m afraid to get medicated.

  5. chloe on July 31, 2021 at 1:16 am

    evrey time i go outside at night i start breathing heavy and i started crying .is that a panic atack

  6. Bill on August 2, 2021 at 9:18 am

    I was under so much stress for so long and never had issues then out of nowhere I get them really bad. Its effected my whole quality of life. I went to the doctor and they cant find anything wrong with me. I took alot of pride in my ability to deal with stress. I should have gone and got therapy and dealt with stuff because it feels like it built up. Now its out of my control I use meditation and it helps but the whole thing sucks.

  7. Joan W on January 25, 2022 at 7:24 pm

    I had 2 when I was a child and both occurred when I was sleeping. I woke with a pain so sharp it felt like someone was stabbing me with an ice pick. I could not breathe. The more I tried to inhale/gulp air, the pain increased. It was the scariest 2 times in my life. I never knew what it was until I was in my 30’s. I assumed they were heart attacks until a doctor told me what they were. Ugh! I was drenched and shaky…

  8. Ruth on January 27, 2022 at 10:39 pm

    Experienced my very “big” panic attack last night. Have had small ones in recent weeks that only lasted a few minutes – but last night took over 3 hours to control my breathing. It was the scariest thing I have ever experienced in my 54 years of life. Was at home relaxing then all of a sudden I started feeling heavy on the chest and breathing was becoming difficult. Things progressed pretty quick to severe hyperventilation and the feeling like I was drunk. Both my hands got pins and needles then cramped up and locked up, then my face became numb and I couldn’t talk then my feet were numb. I vomited several times – I truly thought I was dying and was actually trying to talk to say goodbye to my husband – very very very frightening experience. Spent the night in hospital. When I arrived at hospital they did blood tests my phosphate level was 0.2 (which apparently is dangerously low) The repeat test before I was allowed home saw it return to its natural level of 1.46. I was dehydrated and my blood pressure was low.
    Now looking for ways to manage any future panic attacks to prevent the trauma that I went through last night.

  9. Betty Hubbard on November 20, 2022 at 4:29 am

    I had my first ever panic attack this evening but at the time I did not know what it was. It started with a feeling of being unable to breath, felt like there was something around my throat, feeling like I was going to die, found it difficult to walk around and had to hold onto furniture so as to not fall, wanted to get out of my apartment but could not do that as I was isolating because I have a cold, I started trembling and sweating and became very hot and had such a heavy feeling on my chest. After about 10 minutes of this getting worse and not better I called for some help. A young lady in the building came and stayed with me and helped me out onto my balcony where I could get some cool air. I started to tremble and cry. I must admit that I felt awfully foolish, but I could not help it. This was over fairly quickly, and I started to calm down. From start to finish it was about 30 minutes and I truly hope that I do not have another one of these things.

  10. Reggie on December 30, 2022 at 10:06 pm

    Currently having one!!!:(

  11. bella on March 12, 2023 at 11:11 am

    sometimes i feel these kinda symptoms but idk if its real pain attack or somthin else

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