What Is A Panic Attack?

What is a panic attack?

Mr. Smith is a 26 year old gay male that has not “come out of the closet.”  His parents are devout Pentecostals who are very active in the church.  He is currently dating a lawyer and things have been very stressful. Several weeks ago, he took a depression screening test online and it came back positive. He is afraid to start on medications because he is applying for Life Insurance. Last week, while driving home from the gym, his heart started beating really fast, he was sweating and it felt like he was having a heart attack.  He called his significant other,  but his lover was busy taking depositions and sent a message informing him that he would  have to call him back.  He drove home nervous, devastated and alone.  He has had several episodes similar to this one and now has decided to go the ER for an evaluation. The ER doctor reported that his work-up was negative for a heart attack and wanted to refer him to a Psychiatrist. He declined.

This is the classical presentation of a Panic Attack. The DSM-IV TR diagnostic criteria are as follows:

  • A discrete period of intense fear or discomfort
  • Four of the following symptoms are required (palpitations, heart pounding, sweating, trembling, shaking, shortness of breath, etc.)
  • Chills or hot flushes
  • Nausea, or feeling dizzy, unsteady, or light-headed
  • DE realization or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of dying

Many people feel these same symptoms, which are common with panic attacks. One of the main issues is that many people believe panic attacks are only temporary, and will be eliminated over time. THIS IS NOT THE CASE! Panic attacks are like an untreated wound; if ignored, they could become more intense as time progresses. If you are feeling the common symptoms of a panic attack, the best advice is to seek medical help from a board-certified psychiatrist.


At AskDrO.com, we strongly believe a healthy mind constitutes a healthy body. Panic attacks can trigger other mental issues, including long-term depression and anxiety. If you have experienced ANY of the above symptoms, start a healthier mindset by taking the Dr. Owens Mental Health Prescreen Assessment and check your mental health today! 

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