Symptoms of a panic attack

The symptoms of a panic attack usually occur seemingly out of the blue. Very commonly, it is when a person is feeling relaxed again after a period of stress that a panic attack strikes. For some, this may even be when they are asleep. Certainly one of the distressing things about these symptoms is that there is usually no warning, even though in hindsight you will almost certainly be able to identify a number of stress factors that have laid the groundwork.

The list of symptoms below are essentially the symptoms you experience when you are scared – so of course they are scary!  It is perfectly natural and normal to be taken by surprise and to respond with fear.

It is also possible to experience some of these symptoms, for example a fluttering of the heart or a moment of feeling faint and nauseous, and to feel puzzled or perhaps concerned, without it escalating into a panic or anxiety attack. The body has countless ways of reacting to stress and it is usually only when the mind becomes involved, by reacting with fear to the symptoms, that a panic attack will develop.

See the causes of panic attacks for further information about how and why your body creates these symptoms.

Common symptoms of a panic attack

Overwhelming surge of fear and panic

Increased heartbeat/palpitations



Sensations of unreality/detachment 

Numbness/tingling/burning sensations in the arms, fingers, legs

Nausea/butterflies in the stomach


Sensations of choking and smothering

Tightness/pain in the chest


Feeling faint

Blurred vision


Chills or hot flushes

Dry mouth

Fear of losing control

Fear that you are dying or going mad

If you have experienced any of these symptoms, it is essential to see your doctor and make sure that there are no physical underlying causes. Sometimes the physical symptoms can be severe temporarily, and lead you to think that you may be having a heart attack or some other serious medical emergency. 

Establishing that you are physically OK and understanding what’s going on are important steps in learning to deal with the signs and symptoms of a panic attack.  

For those who may only ever experience one or two panic attacks in their lifetime, it is still important to regard them as a wake-up call that your body is or has been under stress and to take some steps to get back in balance.

The good news is that panic attacks are very treatable, regardless of the type of attacks that you suffer and whether or not they have a specific trigger (e.g. public speaking, being in a confined space etc.). No matter how severe they are or how long you have been experiencing them, you can learn to short-circuit them and get your body back in balance again.  

Strange as it sounds, it is possible to experience the symptoms of a panic attack without actually having one – allowing the symptoms to quickly dissipate without your body going into full panic mode. is all about helping you to develop a complete program, by addressing all the important angles, to make your recovery the speediest possible. There is much you can do that will really help, so take a look around the site.