Maybe you are wondering if what you have experienced was indeed a panic attack? This article will detail common panic attack symptoms. So that if you are experiencing a panic attack symptoms episode you can know that it is anxiety, rather than something else. I help people reduce anxiety and panic attacks. At my London hypnotherapy practice I have helped many rid reduce panic attacks and be free of symptoms. Get in touch today, if you are looking for help with anxiety.
What does a panic attack symptoms episode feel like?
Your heart’s racing, it’s hard to breathe, and you can’t think straight — these could be some of the intense symptoms of a panic attack. A panic attack is an episode of sudden anxiety with an exaggerated bodily response to a threat or danger — whether it’s real or perceived. This sudden surge of intense fear or anxiety brings on specific physical and psychological symptoms. These often reach peak intensity in just a few minutes.
Panic attack symptoms can directly respond to something shocking or scary, but they can also happen without any apparent reason. Understandably, the suddenness and lack of control can make them feel overwhelming and frightening. For many people, panic attacks may be a one-time event. For others, it may be a recurrent thing. This usually happens in the context of a mental health condition like panic disorder.
But in every case, panic attacks are manageable. The first step to managing the symptoms of a panic attack — whether occasional or frequent — is understanding them and what they feel like.
Symptoms of panic attacks
During a panic attack, you can experience physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms all at once.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR), if you experience four or more of the following panic attack symptoms, the incident will receive a formal diagnosis:
- heart palpitations
- trembling or shaking
- shortness of breath or feeling smothered
- choking sensation
- chest pain
- nausea or abdominal discomfort
- dizziness or light-headedness
- derealization or depersonalization
- fears of losing control or dying
- numbness or tingling
- chills or hot flashes
Heart palpitations and a racing heart
A common symptom of panic attacks is feeling your heart rate accelerating rapidly. You might feel or hear your heart beating harder or faster, or notice a pulse point thumping extra hard. Your heart rate will typically slow down as the panic attack and symptoms subside.
As part of the panic response, you may start sweating. This can feel uncomfortable or even embarrassing if you’re in public, but this symptom usually only lasts for a few minutes and is completely natural.
Trembling or shaking
One of the first symptoms you might experience when having a panic attack is excessive and uncontrollable trembling, or shaking in your hands and legs. You might still tremble — although less intensely — hours after your other panic attack symptoms have ended. The trembling should ease up more and more as you recover and calm down. While uncomfortable, this panic attack symptom doesn’t usually indicate any physical problem.
Shortness of breath and smothering sensation
During a panic attack, many people hyperventilate or feel like they’re suffocating. This can cause you to cough, gag, or even vomit. As intense and uncomfortable as these symptoms can be, they’re a natural response to the adrenaline rush you’re experiencing. Try to focus on steadying your breathing by taking deep breaths in and out. Your regular breathing rate should return within 5 to 30 minutes.
Feeling of choking
As with shortness of breath, feeling like you’re choking can also result from hyperventilation. Gasping for air may intensify your panic attack symptoms. As difficult as it can be in the midst of a panic attack, try to remember that this is a product of anxiety and not a physical condition — you’re not actually choking. This might help you regain control of your breathing and feel better sooner.
Chest pain or discomfort
Between heart palpitations and hyperventilating, you may also experience anxiety and chest pain. The first time this happens is often the scariest, since you may assume it’s your heart and not realize it’s anxiety. Even though chest discomfort is a common panic attack symptom, it’s important to seek medical care if you’ve never had chest pain before. This can help you rule out any underlying cardiac conditions. A doctor can run tests and ask questions to let them know whether it’s heart-related or anxiety.
Nausea or abdominal distress
Another consequence of all that adrenaline is nausea or stomach pain. These symptoms may worsen right at the peak of the panic attack — within the first 10 minutes. Sometimes, you may still feel nauseous hours after the attack ends. Anxiety in general can cause stomach upset.
Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
The combination of panic attack symptoms — racing heart, hyperventilating, and fear of losing control — can lead you to feel dizzy or lightheaded. This is a natural response to panic. You should start to feel more stability once the other symptoms disappear.
Derealisation or depersonalisation
As panic attack symptoms peak, you might start getting the sense that what’s happening isn’t real, or start perceiving your surroundings differently, as if you’re in a movie. This is called derealisation. You can also feel detached from yourself, as if you’re not connected to your own body. This is called depersonalisation.
Fear of losing control
If this is one of the first panic attacks you’ve experienced, the intense symptoms may lead you to feel like you’re losing control or your grasp on reality. You may also feel like everything’s closing in on you. These are just temporary feelings — a product of all the physiological processes going on in your body — and not an indication of your mental health.
Fear of dying
Fear of dying is one of the most common symptoms of a panic attack, especially for early attacks or for people who have panic attacks infrequently. Between the physical symptoms and intense anxiety, you may start worrying about your personal safety. These feelings are a direct result of panic, though, so it doesn’t necessarily indicate any physical or life threatening problem.
Numbness or tingling sensations
If you start feeling a pins-and-needles sensation throughout your body, it may be due to anxiety and adrenaline. You can also feel numb or momentarily frozen. These sensations often go away within a few minutes.
Chills or heat sensations
Usually associated with excessive sweating, you can also experience chills or hot flashes. This is your body trying to adapt to the adrenaline and surge of panic.
Other panic attack symptoms and sensations
You can also experience other symptoms like crying, headaches, or vomiting. But to receive a diagnosis of a panic attack, you’ll still need to have at least four of the detailed symptoms above.
How does a panic attack feel like?
During a panic attack, the dramatic physical sensations you feel (like chest pain or heart palpitations) can be so upsetting that some people mistake it for a heart attack. The emotional and mental symptoms can be overwhelming, too. You might feel like something catastrophic will happen or that you need to escape the situation you’re in because you’re in imminent danger.
These sensations and feelings aren’t always related to a specific trigger. Panic attack symptoms can take you by surprise and might even happen when you’re resting or asleep. It’s often the suddenness of panic attacks that’s most upsetting. Some people experience panic attack symptoms just once, but you may also experience them several times or chronically throughout your life.
Can you die from a panic attack?
Symptoms of panic attacks can feel very overwhelming. If your heart is racing, you’re having trouble breathing, and on top of that, your mind is telling you that you’re dying, it might be easy to convince yourself that’s true.
Feeling this way during a panic attack is actually pretty natural and common. But — it’s not what’s really happening. In a panic attack, heart palpitations, feeling like you’re choking, and light-headedness are mostly due to the adrenaline rush and hyperventilating. This, along with your racing thoughts, can lead to even more intense physical symptoms. While it may feel like it — you’re not really having a heart attack or life-threatening experience. In fact, panic attack symptoms aren’t usually dangerous or fatal.
A rare exception to this would be if you were to faint and hit your head, or if your panic lead you to react in a certain way that might expose you to real danger. For instance, if you panicked and ran out of your house, crossing the street without checking for cars first. These are extremely rare occurrences, though. Most people don’t faint or run during panic attacks. But while panic attacks aren’t lethal, there is a chance that your long-term health may be affected by frequent attacks, particularly if you do have an underlying cardiovascular disease.
This doesn’t mean you can die from a panic attack, but rather that multiple attacks can turn into a risk factor for some health conditions. This is why it’s important to seek professional help to prevent and manage panic attack symptoms. It might also be a good idea to regularly engage in relaxation techniques.
How long do panic attacks last?
Not all panic attacks have the same symptoms or the same intensity. They can vary in duration, as well. Typical panic attacks last up to 30 minutes, with the symptoms reaching peak intensity within the first 10 minutes before easing up. But depending on how intense your symptoms are, panic attacks can seem to last much longer.
In some cases, you may also experience residual effects for hours — like a rippling effect. So you could have some less intense physical and psychological sensations for up to a day or two after the panic attack began. Panic attacks can last longer or come in and out in waves for days. In fact, some people experience panic attacks every day for weeks or months. Others may have one panic attack and then go on for months or even years without having another one. For some people, learning how to cope with anticipatory anxiety and how to manage panic attack symptoms can help decrease the frequency of panic episodes.
Hypnotherapy can help a panic attack symptoms episode
Although hypnotherapy has been around a long time, it has recently grown in popularity for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Lets get more into how hypnotherapy is used to treat panic attacks.
What Is Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is a technique that helps assist a person to relax into an altered state of consciousness known as a trance. While in a hypnotic state, a person is deeply relaxed, keenly focused, and highly open to suggestion. Hypnotherapy is used to help manage a variety of health issues, including stress, skin conditions, weight loss, addiction, sleep disorders, and smoking cessation.
During a typical hypnotherapy session for panic attacks, I, as a clinical hypnotherapist guide the client into a relaxed state. Once the client is feeling calm, yet alert, the hypnotherapy visualisations and suggestion work brings their attention to behaviours and thoughts they would like to change. Especially with anxiety, it is also very important to boost confidence and offer words of encouragement, such as “You no longer feel stressed” or suggestions, like “Any time you feel stressed, you will pause, breathe, and feel energised.”
After offering affirmations and suggestions of positive feelings, thoughts and behaviour, I will also run through specific hypnotherapy processes and visualisations to ensure a panic attack symptoms episode is a thing of the past.
How can hypnotherapy help with panic and anxiety symptoms?
I see in my daily work that hypnotherapy reduce panic attacks. Indeed research also has shown that hypnotherapy can help relieve stress, fear, and anxiety. It can also be used to help in coping with the symptoms of panic disorder. Whilst under hypnosis, a person with panic disorder may be guided to bring attention to coping with specific symptoms and overcoming limiting behaviours.
Hypnotherapy can also be used in the treatment of agoraphobia, a common condition for people with panic disorder. Agoraphobia involves a fear of having panic attacks under restrictive circumstances, including crowds or while driving. Hypnotherapy can allow a person to learn how to remain relaxed while facing these fears. I also enjoy helping people at my London practice get past their phobias and suggest ways to remain relaxed when in feared environments.
Hypnotherapy can help a person with panic attacks improve negative thinking, and manage troublesome symptoms. Additionally, hypnotherapy may be able to assist in treating common co-occurring conditions, including depression, headaches and migraines, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Getting panic attack symptoms treated with hypnotherapy
If you would like to have hypnotherapy at my London practice to reduce and deal better with a panic attack symptoms episode, get in touch today. Sessions are also available online.