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Panic Attacks (cont.)

Panic Attacks Symptoms

The American Psychiatric Association's official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, Treatment Revision (DSM-IV-TR) defines a panic attack as a discrete period of intense fear, distress, nervousness or discomfort, in which four (or more) of the following symptoms develop abruptly and reach a peak within 10 minutes:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or fast heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Some of these symptoms will most likely be present in a panic attack. The attacks can be so disabling that the person is unable to express to others what is happening to them. A doctor might also note various signs of panic: The person may appear to be very afraid or shaky or be hyperventilating (deep, rapid breathing that causes dizziness). Anxiety attacks that take place while sleeping, also called nocturnal panic attacks, occur less often than do panic attacks during the daytime, but affect a large percentage of people who suffer from daytime panic attacks. Individuals with nocturnal panic attacks tend to have more respiratory symptoms associated with panic and have more symptoms of depression and of other psychiatric disorders compared to people who do not have panic attacks at night. Nocturnal panic attacks tend to result in sufferers waking suddenly from sleep in a state of sudden fright or dread for no known reason. As opposed to people with sleep apnea and other sleep disorders, sufferers of nocturnal panic can have all the other symptoms of a panic attack. Although nocturnal panic attacks usually last no more than 10 minutes, it can take much longer for the person to fully recover from the episode.
  • Recent literature suggests that men and women may experience different symptoms during an attack. Women tend to experience a predominance of respiratory symptoms compared to men.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/10/2014

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