What Are Panic Attacks and Their Signs

signs of a panic attack


Panic Attacks

Panic disorder is a mental health condition. People with panic disorder experience unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear. These episodes can sometimes lead to physical symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or a racing heart. A panic attack is a term used when describing the intense fear felt by people with Panic Disorder.

A panic disorder can be extremely debilitating and many people diagnosed with this condition have trouble functioning in their everyday lives. This article will explore the basics of panic disorders, including what it entails, how to know if you might have one, and most importantly, how to stop them from controlling your life.

What Causes Panic Disorder?

Panic Attacks

The root cause of the panic disorder is still unknown. However, several theories attempt to explain why some people begin experiencing panic attacks and other symptoms associated with this condition. The first theory suggests that these individuals possess an overly sensitive amygdala (the almond-shaped part of the brain responsible for assessing threats). This may occur if they have suffered from severe neglect or abuse in their childhood years. It has been found by researchers studying the correlation between mental illness and physical illness, particularly autoimmune diseases such as lupus, Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, that stress can set off the autoimmune response. If somebody has an overly sensitive amygdala, they may experience panic attacks in response to stress long before anyone else would.

Symptoms of Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can cause a variety of symptoms, some of which are physical and some of which are mental. The physical symptoms can include chest pain, a racing heart, sweating, dizziness, nausea, and feeling short of breath. The mental symptoms can include feelings of intense fear, feelings of unreality or disconnection from reality, and thoughts of death or suicide. Many people also experience anxiety and depression in the aftermath of a panic attack. In this article, we look at symptoms of panic attacks and their causes, as well as effective treatment options. The symptoms experienced during a panic attack are caused by a surge of adrenaline into the body. Most people experience physical symptoms first, which then cause mental symptoms that may include:

Chest pain or discomfort

This can be a tightness in the chest, a “heavy” feeling in the chest, or a sensation that you cannot breathe properly. The sensation is often mistaken for heart problems, causing sufferers to seek medical attention to rule out life-threatening conditions such as heart disease. Symptoms may continue until the person has an opportunity to relax and calm down.

Racing heartbeat

One of the most common symptoms of a panic attack is a racing heartbeat. The heart rate speeds up and breathing and muscles begin to feel tense.


It’s common for people to sweat during a panic attack, which can make some sufferers fear they’ve begun to run a fever or that the room is too hot.


This may be experienced as feeling lightheaded or off-balance, which typically causes sufferers to sit down until it passes. In extreme cases, dizziness can lead to fainting.


Some people experience nausea during a panic attack, which often makes them think they’re about to vomit or have been mistaken about their need for medical attention due to a life-threatening condition such as a stomach ulcer.

Shortness of breath

Panic attacks can cause a tightening sensation in the chest and difficulty breathing, which may lead a person to believe they’re not getting enough air. In extreme cases, this sensation can lead to panic sufferers thinking they’re going to die or pass out.

Fear of dying

This is one of the most common fears during a panic attack. The fear can be quite intense and it often causes people with panic disorder to develop an intense fear of having another attack.

Feelings of unreality or detachment from reality

During a panic attack, sufferers often feel like they are detached from their surroundings or even that they are disconnected from reality in some way. Thoughts (“I’m losing my mind”) and images (a dark tunnel) may also be experienced.

Thoughts of death or self-harm

It’s not uncommon for people experiencing a panic attack to fear that they’re about to die because of the sensations associated with an attack. Those who experience severe attacks may also think about harming themselves to stop the panic attack.

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