Meet Dr. Donnica Video Introduction TV Appearances

Diseases & Conditions Today on DrDonnica.com Clinical Trials Decisionnaires FAQs Top Tips Fast Facts Debunking Myths News Alerts Celebrity Speak Out Guest Experts Women's Health Champions Books Women's Health Resources

Mission Privacy Policy Sponsors Press Room What's New? Contact Us

This website is accredited by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.


Hope Award

Send to a Friend

Panic Attack

Q: I was enjoying a casual dinner the other night, when all of a sudden my heart started racing. I broke out in a cold sweat and I was shaking, dizzy and short of breath. It was really scary - I thought I was having a heart attack! But a trip to the emergency room found nothing wrong with my heart. A friend suggested it might have been a panic attack - could she be right, and if so, how do I stop them?

Dr. Donnica: While this certainly could have been a panic attack, this is what's called a "diagnosis of exclusion." That means that since there's no specific diagnostic test, we first have to make sure your symptoms were not caused by something else before we attribute them to your first panic attack. The good news is that your emergency room check-up went well. But you could have had a run of an "arrhythmia" (irregular heartbeat) with palpitations or a vasospasm (a spasm of the large blood vessels that supply the heart). You also could have had an allergic type reaction to something in the food.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (www.apa.org), a panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. They seem to occur in harmless situations and can even occur during sleep.

Symptoms include:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing or feeling as though you 'can't get enough air'
  • Terror that is almost paralyzing
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea
  • Trembling, sweating, shaking
  • Choking sensation or chest pains
  • Hot flashes or sudden chills
  • Tingling in fingers or toes ('pins and needles')
  • Fear that you're going crazy, are about to die, or that you sense impending "doom"

While a panic attack is not dangerous, it can be terrifying. They can occur rarely or recur frequently. If you become afraid of having future panic attacks, it is then time to consult a mental health professional.

Click here for more information about depression or other mental health issues.

Created: 5/16/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

All the content contained herein is copyrighted pursuant to federal law. Duplication or use without
the express written permission of DrDonnica.com subjects the violator to both civil & criminal penalties.
Copyright © 2006 DrDonnica.com. All rights reserved.

Home | Today on DrDonnica.com | Meet Dr. Donnica | TV Appearances | Clinical Trials
Diseases & Conditions | Decisionnaires | Celebrity Speak Out | Guest Experts | Women's Health Champions
FAQs | Women’s Health Resources | Archive | Books & Tapes | Site Certification | Advanced Search
Mission | What’s New? | Press Room | Privacy Policy | Sponsors | Partners | Contact Us