A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that develops for no apparent reason and that triggers severe physical reactions. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying. Other symptoms include racing or pounding heartbeat, chest pains, dizziness/lightheadedness, nausea, difficulty breathing, tingling or numbness in your hands, trembling or shaking, and terror (or a sense that something unimaginably horrible is about to occur).
You may have only one or two panic attacks in your lifetime. But if you have had several panic attacks and experience persistent fear of another attack, you may have a chronic condition called panic disorder. You may be suffering from panic disorder if you experience frequent, unexpected panic attacks that aren’t tied to a specific situation, worry a lot about having another panic attack, and are behaving differently because of the panic attacks, such as avoiding places where you’ve previously panicked.