Symptoms of a Panic Attack

Panic. Most of us have experienced that at sometime or the other, right? Panic while entering the exam hall. Panic while walking on a deserted road. Panic thinking you’re lost in an unknown neighborhood. We know what panic feels like. A panic attack is experienced on the same terms, but is far, far more intense. There are several symptoms of this attack which help us identify the severity of the same. In the sections that follow, we will be getting into more detail about these attacks, what they mean, the symptoms, and the treatment forms of the same.

What are Panic Attacks?

As said earlier, we all know what the feeling of panic is and that it is brought on as a response to a particular tense situation or the like. A panic ‘attack’, however, happens quite suddenly, without any warning or signal, and it leaves a person feeling completely terrorized. What sets a panic attack aside is the fact that the reactions of blood-curdling fear that are evoked in a person, might not be in response to a particular stimulus. The fear is not necessarily a reaction to something. In that way the attacks may be brought on without any warning and can even occur at night. The person suffering from a panic attack might experience such an intense fear that he might feel like he might die. Some might even mistake the sensations brought on by an attack with those of a heart attack.

These attacks can last anywhere from 10 minutes to about 30 minutes. The person who experiences these might develop overall anxiety because he/she isn’t sure about when the next attack will strike. If a person has had more than 4 panic attacks then he is said to be suffering from a panic attack disorder, which is a type of chronic anxiety disorder. These attacks are usually brought on after major life changing events in a person’s life and could also lead to other psychological and behavioral problems like depression. There could also be a genetic factor involved, wherein if there has been a family history of recurrent panic attacks, then a person might be prone to them too. Once a person suffers an attack, it furthers the risk of suffering more.


In order to fully understand what a panic attack feels like, we need to understand what some of the symptoms are. Here are the common symptoms:

  • Pounding heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Flushed skin
  • Intense or mild sweating
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Hot flashes
  • Foreboding feeling of death or similar
  • Intense shaking and trembling
  • Hyperventilation
  • Pain in chest region and ribs
  • Migraines or headaches
  • Cramping in abdominal region
  • Fainting sensation
  • Feeling of tightness in throat
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Strained breath
  • Overall weakness
  • Tingling sensation in the hands and fingers
  • Numbness in hands and legs
  • Feeling complete loss of control
  • Chest discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Urgency to use the bathroom
  • Muscle strain and pain
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Ears turning hot and/or lips turning cold
  • Flushing and blotching of skin
  • Loss of skin color
  • Experiencing disturbing thoughts
  • Feeling unsteady and unlike oneself
  • Paralyzing terror
  • An intense need to escape
  • Experiencing perceptual distortions
  • Experiencing the feeling that you’re not yourself or are going about in a dream-like state

These panic attack symptoms are manifested in similar ways in women, men, and adolescents. But when it comes to children, even though most symptoms are experienced in the same way, the major difference is that the symptoms tend to be more physical than cognitive. For example, children will not experience an out-of-body experience or feel like they are in a dream-like state. While symptoms like these might be common in adults who suffer from these attacks.

Treatment for this condition becomes necessary so that a person does not remain a victim of the same. Here are some ways of treating an oncoming attack:

  • Breathe in and out very, very slowly. This will bring in more oxygen and will help in blocking every other thought.
  • Try some relaxation or meditation techniques for the same.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Cut out all products that contain caffeine. These are known to intensify the attack.
  • Cut out on all foods that spike insulin in your body.
  • Exercise for at least 40 minutes a day. This will help relieve stress.
  • Visit a behavioral therapist if you need help in coming to terms with your fears. The usage of psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy is known to be a good anxiety cure.

Panic attacks can come about at any time and therefore it is important to be prepared for the same. With the symptoms of panic attacks and the treatment provided for in this article, it should help you in better understanding the situation. If the problem persists, make sure that you visit your doctor.