Signs and symptoms of panic disorder
If you have panic disorder you may:
- have recurring and unexpected panic attacks.
- worry for at least a month after having a panic attack that you’ll have another one
- make significant changes to try to avoid panic attacks - for example, you might avoid exercise because it increases your heart rate.
You might also worry about why you’re having panic attacks. For example, some people worry it means they have another illness. They may have repeated medical tests which show nothing’s wrong but still be afraid that they’re unwell.
What does a panic attack feel like?
During a panic attack, you get a sudden sense of overwhelming panic and fear.
Panic attacks usually last for up to half an hour, with the worst symptoms in the first 10 minutes. Afterwards you may feel very tired.
If you have panic disorder they can happen as often as several times a day. Panic attacks can even start while you’re asleep and wake you up in the middle of the night.
Common signs and symptoms of a panic attack include:
- a sense of overwhelming panic or fear
- the thought that you are dying, choking, ‘losing control’ or ‘going mad’
- increased heart rate
- difficulty breathing (feeling that there is not enough air)
- feeling choked
- excessive sweating
- dizziness, light-headedness or feeling faint.
Some people may also experience ‘derealisation’ - a sense that you or the world around you is not real. This symptom seems to be related to the physiological changes that happen in your body during the panic attack.