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Panic Attack: Symptoms and Clinical Features

Panic Attack: Symptoms and Clinical Features

Have you ever been in a situation where a person suddenly began acting as if they were under severe stress? She sweats profusely, nearly faints, and complains that she can't breathe. People around her may believe she has had a heart attack, but she recovers and gradually returns to normalcy. While this could be a temporary cardiac problem, it could also be a panic attack.

A panic attack is a sudden onset of intense fear or apprehension. Such symptoms usually appear suddenly and peak within 10 -15 minutes. The victim is completely overpowered by the symptoms, many of which are physiological, during such an attack.

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by intense, recurring, and unexpected panic attacks, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The panic disorder differs from normal fear and anxiety in that it is often extreme and appears to strike out of nowhere.

A person with panic disorder may experience intense fear, rapid breathing, and a rapid heart rate. Panic attacks can occur unexpectedly for no apparent reason in people with panic disorder, but a triggering event or situation can also precede them.

Panic attacks are distinguished by their unpredictability. According to the DSM, a person is diagnosed with panic disorder if she has had unexpected recurrent episodes and is persistently concerned about having another attack. This condition must last at least a month. In addition, the person must exhibit at least four of the thirteen symptoms listed below during the episode:

●       Palpitation or pounding heart

●        Sweating

●        Trembling or shaking

●        The sensation of shortness of breath or being smothered

●        Feeling of choking

●        Chest pain or discomfort

●        Nausea or abdominal distress

●        Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or faint

●        Derealisation or depersonalization

●        Fear of losing control or going crazy

●        Fear of dying

●        Paresthesia

●        Chill or hot flushes.

The typical clinical description of a panic attack includes intense terror, sometimes manifested as fear of dying or going insane. Nervousness, trembling, and stress are all familiar. The individual appears to have no self-control. Sometimes it feels as if

●       The onset of a heart attack manifested as difficulty breathing (as if one is not getting enough oxygen)

●       Palpitation, hyperventilation, rapid heartbeats, chest pain, and choking

●       The sensation is accompanied by profuse sweating. There is frequent dizziness.

●       Dizziness, nausea, and fainting

●       One almost feels detached from reality.

●       He appears to be disconnected from his immediate surroundings and drawn into a whirlpool of strange sensations

●        Hot flashes, chills, and burning sensations occur on occasion.

●       Tingling in the face and neck area

●       Vision impairment

●       It is also seen as flashing vision and tunnel vision (loss of peripheral vision).

●       The most noticeable underlying characteristic is a sense of being entirely out of control in all aspects.

The reactions are typically those associated with sympathetic nervous system activation. You should be aware that a panic attack is not dangerous, but it can be not very comforting. There have been numerous cases where the patient has been admitted for emergency cardiac care, especially when the symptoms are primarily physiological and mimic cardiac symptoms.

Risk of panic attacks

Several factors can raise your chances of having a panic attack. These are some examples:

●       having a family history of panic attacks

●       having a history of childhood abuse

●       working or living in a high-stress situation

●       experiencing traumatic events

●       Undergoing a major life change, such as having a baby, losing a loved one.


Treatment will reduce the severity and frequency of your panic attacks and improve your daily functioning. Psychotherapy and medications are the primary treatment options.

How to help someone who is having a panic attack?

Panic attacks can strike unexpectedly and without warning. You need to learn to recognise the symptoms of a panic attack so that you can help the one affected. Because your friend is experiencing a fight-or-flight stress response, they may not behave normally. Speak calmly to them, and don't take anything they say or do personally. People frequently have difficulty sharing their mental health experiences. They may feel judged or as if they will not be taken seriously. Try to be understanding and understand that you may not always understand what they're going through. Even if everything appears to be fine to you during a panic attack, the danger your friend perceives is very real to them.

Avoid phrases such as 'Just calm down' or 'What's wrong with you?'

Consider the following suggestions:

  • Remember to breathe slowly and deeply. Controlled breathing is something you should do with them. This can often be beneficial because they may begin to mimic your actions.

  • Ask them to slowly count backwards from 100 

  • Assist them in becoming at ease. (Instruct them to sit or lie down.)

  • Request that they name five things that they can see, hear, smell, or feel.

  • Assure them that they are experiencing anxiety and that it will pass.

  • If the symptoms are still present or have worsened after 20–30 minutes, take them to the doctor.

  • Avoid repeating phrases like 'Don't worry.'

Now put on your thinking hats and think about the following questions for a couple of minutes.

How would you describe the term “panic attack” to your students?

Can you think of some factors that may contribute to panic attack?

Can you think of some effective ways to help your friend if he/she is having a panic attack?

Write down your thoughts and discuss them with your students, children and your colleagues. Listen to their views and compare them with your own. As you listen to others, note how similar or different your views are to others’.

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Happy Teaching!