Symptoms and Signs of Panic Attack

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 9/24/2021

Doctor's Notes on Panic Attack

Panic attacks are a symptom of an anxiety disorder, which include a discrete period of intense fear, distress, nervousness, or discomfort. Panic attacks can be frightening but are fortunately not physically harmful. They can occur suddenly, unexpectedly, unprovoked, and can be disabling. Panic attacks may occur for no known reason or after a person is exposed "trigger". They can intensity to a peak rapidly and also go away with or without medical intervention.

Symptoms of panic attacks may include

What Is the Treatment for a Panic Attack?

Treatment for panic attacks consists of medications, learned self-help, and psychotherapy, in order to decrease symptoms. Symptoms of a panic attack are scary and uncomfortable but they are not deadly and they are treatable.

Doctors may prescribe medications to help treat panic disorder:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants 

  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressants
  • Beta-blockers
  • Benzodiazepines
    • Especially helpful in an acute panic attack

Psychotherapy and lifestyle changes may be necessary to help cope with panic attacks. These strategies may help keep panic attacks from happening or calm you down faster if they do occur. These therapies include:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy
  • Biofeedback therapy
  • Stress management techniques
  • Breathing exercises
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get proper sleep
  • Teach family or friends to help you refocus during a panic attack

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.