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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are the symptoms of a panic attacks?

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    Joe Gubbay

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I have worked in public hospitals as well as private practice over the past 25 years. As a clinical psychologist I treat depression, social anxiety, … View Profile

    A panic attack is a rapidly escalating feeling of intense anxiety.  The main symptoms of panic attacks are:
    1. Palpitations, pounding or increased heart rate
    2. Sweating
    3. Trembling
    4. Shortness of breath
    5. Choking
    6. Chest pain
    7. Nausea
    8. Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded or faint
    9. Derealisation (feelings of unreality) or depersonalisation (being detached from oneself)
    10. Fear of losing control or going crazy
    11. Fear of dying
    12. Numbness or tingling
    13. Chills or hot flushes.

    Panic attacks can be experienced as part of a range of emotional problems.  In Panic Disorder, the person fears having panic attacks, which are usually misinterpreted in a catastrophic way (such as believing that you're going mad).  Panic can also be experienced as part of social anxiety - in that case, people realise that the panicky feelings are a result of worrying about how they come across.  Phobias can trigger panic attacks as well.  

    Fortunately, panic-inducing anxiety is one of the most successfully treated conditions, with cognitive behavioural therapy - a type of psychological treatment - the best approach.   

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