Symptoms of panic disorder

Panic disorder shares a number of physical and mental symptoms with anxiety and other mental illnesses, but it is primarily based on the presence of regular panic attacks. The number of panic attacks experienced depends on the severity of panic disorder. Some people experience panic attacks once or twice per month, while others may experience several panic attacks per week.

A panic attack, also known as an anxiety attack , consists of the following physical and mental symptoms:

  • A rush of overwhelming fear, panic, or anxiety
  • Shortness of breath, feeling choked, or feeling unable to breathe
  • Nausea
  • Sweating, hot flushes, or chills
  • Trembling
  • Crying
  • Pain and tightness in chest and throat
  • Heart palpitations
  • Feeling dizzy and faint

Another possible symptom is depersonalisation, derealisation or dissociation. Depersonalisation is a feeling of being detached from your body or surroundings, and may feel like you are floating or observing things from a distance. Derealisation is similar to depersonalisation, but primarily involves a feeling that your perception is warped, such as objects or your limbs being very large or close-up, or distant and/or small compared to the world around you. Dissociation is where you feel disconnected from your surroundings, thoughts, memories etc. All of these can be frightening to experience, but are often short-lived.

Some have described panic attacks as feeling like a heart attack, which contributes to the fear that the person is experiencing. However panic attacks are not dangerous and are often short-lasting.
You may not experience all these symptoms, but if you think you may be experiencing panic attacks or your anxiety is negatively impacting on your life you should speak to your GP in order to access the support available.

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