23 Jan 2021

Panic Attack: Simplified for the layman.

You might have heard that people who suffer from mental illness are likely to suffer from panic attacks, especially those who have some kind of anxiety disorder. However, panic attacks can be faced by completely normal humans also during situations of extreme stress like appearing for an exam, getting confronted for wrongdoing, a medical emergency, etc. 

What is a panic attack? 

A panic attack is a distinct period of intense physical, emotional, and psychological discomfort.


The standard symptoms that occur during a panic attack are as follows:-

  1. Very fast heartbeats during which you can feel the contraction of muscles of your heart.
  2. Sweating.
  3. Uncontrollable shaking or trembling of the body.
  4. Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  5. Feelings of choking.
  6. Pain or any kind of discomfort in the chest.
  7. Feeling nauseated or discomfort and pain in the abdomen.
  8. Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint.
  9. Sudden feelings of cold or hot sensations in your body.
  10. Feeling numb or tingling sensation in body parts.
  11. Feelings of unreality(derealization) or feeling detached from oneself(depersonalization).
  12. Fear of “Going Crazy” or losing control.
  13. Fear of dying.

Any four out of above stated thirteen symptoms confirm a panic attack.

How to confirm if it is a “Panic Attack”?

A panic attack comprises of any four of these thirteen symptoms, which occur suddenly from a calm state or an anxious state( a state in which someone already is fearful and worried about something). These symptoms develop and reach a peak within 10 minutes and then subside over a period of few minutes to about half an hour or up to an hour in rare cases.

I wrote the description given by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, in simplest English so that even non-English speaking people can understand it well. 

What causes a panic attack?

A panic attack can be triggered by stress caused by:-

  • A trigger(thought or sight of a person, place, or situation that someone fears or worries about) OR
  • Without any trigger or reason(when someone suffers from panic disorders)

If you think you or someone you know is suffering from this mental health issue called “panic attacks” please reach out for help.

The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and, are not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please seek the advice of a qualified mental health professional with any questions you have regarding a medical health condition.


Reference: American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. (Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013).

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