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What is a Panic Attack?

DR. ESSLIN TERRIGHENA explains what a panic attack is and what symptoms to look out for.

Panic attacks are characterized by the onset of sudden, intense, and often overwhelming fear and anxiety. The physical and mental symptoms of panic attacks can be so intense that the person may feel like they are dying or having a serious medical condition, like a heart attack or stroke. However, a panic attack itself does not cause physical harm, despite be very scary at times. Being aware of the symptoms can help reduce the intensity of the panic and enhance a sense of understanding and control.

Physical panic attack symptoms include:

  • Racing heartbeat

  • Difficulties breathing

  • Feeling light-headed, dizzy, or faint

  • Nausea

  • Chest pain

  • Tightening of throat or chest

  • Muscle tension or cramping

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Numbness, pins and needles or tingling

  • Feeling disconnected from the body

  • Chills or hot flushes

Mental panic attack symptoms include:

  • Intense fear, anxiety, or panic

  • Feeling unsafe or threatened

  • Sense that everything around you is racing or moving fast

  • Lights seem too bright, noises too sharp

  • Fear of dying

  • Confusion and difficulties grasping clear thoughts

  • Detachment from reality

Panic attacks tend to last from 5 to 20 minutes, on rare occasions lasting more than an hour. Click here to find out how to support yourself or a loved one during a panic attack.

If you or a loved one are struggling with panic attacks and want to find help, please book a consultation with Dr. Terrighena on (852) 2521 4668 or

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