Health A-Z

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A panic attack is defined by having at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations, heart pounding or a rapid pulse

  • Sweating

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Breathing problems, such as shortness of breath or feeling smothered

  • Feeling of choking

  • Chest pain or chest discomfort

  • Abdominal discomfort, upset stomach or nausea

  • Feeling faint, dizzy, light-headed or unsteady on your feet

  • Feeling unreal or detached from yourself

  • Fear of losing control

  • Fear of dying

  • Numbness or tingling in arms, legs or other parts of the body

  • Chills or hot flushes

Between panic attacks, someone with panic disorder usually has persistent worries that a new attack will occur. These worries may cause the person to dramatically change his or her behavior or lifestyle to avoid the embarrassment of "losing control" while with other people.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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