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10 March 2004

What are the symptoms of a panic attack?

Chest pains, dizziness, heart palpitations … These are all symptoms of panic attacks.

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) has the following criteria for panic attacks:

A discrete period of intense fear or discomfort, in which four (or more) of the following symptoms developed abruptly and reached a peak within 10 minutes.

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feeling 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 flushes

Do these symptoms sound familiar? If so, you should consult a health professional to establish whether you might be experiencing panic attacks.

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