A panic attack is a sudden strong feeling of fear. You’ll have four or more of these signs:
- Pounding or fast heartbeat
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath or a feeling of being smothered
- A choking feeling
- Chest pain
- Nausea or stomach pains
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Chills or hot flashes
- Numbness or tingling in the body
- Feeling unreal or detached
- A fear of losing control or going crazy
- A fear of dying
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes panic disorder. Researchers have found that it can run in families, but they’re not sure how much of that is because of your genes or the environment you grew up in. People with panic disorder may have brains that are especially sensitive in responding to fear.
Turning to drugs or alcohol to try to deal with panic disorder in turn can make the symptoms worse.
People with this disorder often also have major depression. But there is no evidence that one condition causes the other.
There isn’t a lab test specifically for panic disorder. Your doctor probably will examine you and rule out other health issues. If you’ve had two or more random panic attacks and live in fear of a repeat episode, you likely have panic disorder.