Panic is a sensation of intense fear with sudden onset. Logical or rational thinking is replaced with agitation, anxiety, and physiological responses similar to the fight-or-flight response. The onset of panic increases physical symptoms such as: trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, increased heart rate, sweating, nausea, dizziness/feeling faint. While experiencing panic, one may also experience irrational thoughts in response to physical symptoms, such as: “I am having a heart attack”, “I am going to die” or “I am losing control.”

Related Disorders

Panic is often associated with Panic Attack, which is a period of intense fear with physical symptoms reaching a peak by 10 minutes and ending within 30 minutes. Repeated panic attacks, combined with changes in behavior or anxiety about having another panic attack may be indicative of Panic Disorder. Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia is described as being in a situation where you are afraid of having a panic attack, and fear that you will be unable to get help or escape the situation; the fear leads to additional avoidance of situations.


Approximately 2.7% of the U.S. Adult population, or 6 million individuals, experience panic disorder 1. Research has shown that panic disorder is twice as common in women compared to men. The onset of panic attack is typically late adolescence or early adulthood. There also appears to be a genetic component to panic attacks, in that “panic attacks” may be inherited. 2

Video Examples

Here is an example of what a panic attack feels like.

Empathy Exercises

The following are examples of how to help alleviate panic attacks or support someone who is experiencing a panic attack.

Additional Resources

Anxiety Disorders Association of America promotes prevention, education, training, treatment, and research for anxiety and stress-related disorders  provides access to all the resources to understand and overcome concerns with anxiety. provides the latest and most relevant information on anxiety disorders.

Psych Education provides a description of treatment modalities based upon current research.