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If you have panic disorder, you may feel suddenly terrified for no reason. These unexpected and repeated bursts of terror are called panic attacks. Panic attacks can happen any time and any place without warning. They often happen in grocery stores, malls, crowds, or while traveling. Panic attacks don't last long, but they are so scary that they feel like they go on forever.

You may live in constant fear of another attack and may stay away from places where you have had an attack. For some people, fear takes over their lives and they may dread leaving their homes. They develop a condition known as agoraphobia, which is fear of unknown places or fear of being in places where you might feel trapped or unable to escape. People with agoraphobia fear being in crowds, standing in line, entering shopping malls, and riding in cars or public transportation.

Symptoms of panic attack include:

  • Sudden feelings of terror for no reason
  • Chest pains
  • Racing, pounding, or skipping heartbeat
  • Choking sensation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Nausea or stomach problems
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feelings of unreality, or being detached from the body
  • An urge to flee
  • Fear of impending doom, such as death, heart attack, suffocation, loss of control, or embarrassment
  • Fear of dying or going crazy

References:

Panic disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/panic-disorder.shtml. Updated January 23, 2009. Accessed March 25, 2009.



Last reviewed November 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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