A panic attack is an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement. It is the rapid build-up of overwhelming physical sensations, such as:
- a pounding heartbeat
- feeling faint
- nausea (feeling sick)
- chest pains
- feeling unable to breathe
- shaky limbs, or feeling like your legs are turning to jelly
- feeling like you’re not connected to your body
During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you're:
- losing control
- going to faint
- having a heart attack
- going to die
My teeth would chatter uncontrollably and my whole body [would] tremble, I’d hyperventilate and cry with panic as the feeling that I was going to fall unconscious was so convincing.
How long do panic attacks last?
Panic attacks are different for different people. Most panic attacks last for between 5 and 20 minutes, but sometimes symptoms can last for up to an hour. If this happens you are probably experiencing one attack after another, or a high level of anxiety after the initial panic attack.
How often might I have panic attacks?
Again, it’s different for different people. You might have one panic attack and never experience another, or you might have attacks once a month or even several times each week.
This information was published in July 2015. We will revise it in 2018.