It's not just fear or worry. In fact, many panic attacks don’t look like panic at all. Panic attacks come on rapidly, and often at times that don't seem to make sense. The symptoms of panic disorder vary from person to person and even from attack to attack for the same person. The problems listed below are not unique to panic attacks, but if you're experiencing more than one, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor either way.
1. YOU'RE DIZZY.
Doctors sometimes call the autonomic nervous system (ANS) the "automatic nervous system" because it regulates many vital bodily functions like pumping blood all on its own, without our having to think about it. Panic attacks often manifest through the ANS, leading to increased heart rate or decreased blood pressure, which can in turn lead to feeling lightheaded or faint.
2. YOU'RE LOSING YOURSELF.
Feeling detached from yourself is called depersonalization. Feeling detached from the world, or like it's fake or somehow unreal, is called derealization. Both forms of dissociation are unsettling but common signs that a panic attack has begun.
3. YOU'RE QUEASY.
Our digestive system is often the first body part to realize that something is wrong. Panic sends stress hormones and tension to the gut and disrupts digestion, causing nausea, upset stomach, or heartburn.
4. YOU FEEL NUMB OR TINGLY.
Panic attacks can manifest in truly surprising ways, including pins and needles or numbness in a person's hands or face.
5. YOU'RE SWEATY OR SHIVERING.
The symptoms of a panic attack can look a lot like the flu. But if you don't have a fever and no one else has chattering teeth, it might be your ANS in distress.
6. YOU KNOW THE WORST IS COMING.
While it may sound prophetic or at least bizarre, a sense of impending doom is a very common symptom of panic attacks (and several other conditions).
7. BREATHING IS DIFFICULT.
The ANS strikes again. In addition to the well-known problems of hyperventilation or shortness of breath, panic attacks can also cause dyspnea, in which a person feels like they can't fill their lungs, and feelings of choking or being smothered.
8. YOU'RE AFRAID OF HAVING A PANIC ATTACK.
Oddly enough, anxiety about anxiety is itself a symptom of anxiety and panic attacks. Fear of losing control or getting upset can cause people to avoid situations that could be triggering, which can in turn limit their lives.