What are the symptoms of a panic attack?
- A panic attack is a discrete period of intense and sudden fear, apprehension or terror. Four or more physical symptoms develop abruptly, such as palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, stomach discomfort, feeling dizzy, feelings of unreality or detachment from oneself, fear of dying, numbness or tingling, chill or hot flushes
- The number and severity of symptoms present during a panic attack vary between people, but at least four of the above symptoms must be present during a full blown panic attack. Panic attacks with three or less symptoms are called limited symptom or non-clinical panic attacks
- Panic attacks are initially experienced as unexpected, as if they have come “out of the blue”; they can even occur in sleep (called nocturnal panic attacks) and so a person may not be able to identify the cause of an attack. The symptoms might also appear to mimic symptoms of a heart attack or other life-threatening medical condition
- After the initial spontaneous panic attacks, some people may experience more predictable panic attacks that are triggered by a specific situation or place, although usually for no obvious reason
What are the symptoms of Panic Disorder (with or without Agoraphobia)?
- When PD is present, the panic attacks are associated with persistent concern about having additional attacks, worrying about the attack or its consequences or a significant change in behaviour. A person with PD may fear collapsing, dying or going crazy during a panic attack
- PD is also diagnosed according to whether or not agoraphobia is present: Agoraphobia concerns anxiety about and avoidance of being in situations from which escape or help might be difficult if a panic attack occurred. People with agoraphobia are unable to go beyond surroundings known to be safe, such as their homes
- A person with PD may also experience other problems, such as depression, alcohol/substance abuse, or irritable bowel syndrome, difficulties interacting with others and difficulties in general functioning
- It is necessary to have a medical check to rule out the possibility of an underlying medical condition