In panic disorder there is a sudden attack, and often unexplained, characterized by a large number of symptoms:

  • dyspnea(difficulty breathing, feelings of anxiety),
  • rapid heart rate,
  • nausea,
  • chest pain,
  • feelings of suffocation and asphyxiation,
  • dizziness,
  • sweating, trembling,
  • intense apprehension,
  • terror and feeling of impending disaster.

Moreover, the person can be attacked and overwhelmed by a sense of depersonalization and derealization. The depersonalization is to perceive themselves as detached from oneself and one’s body; derealization is made, instead, by a sense of unreality of the world. Other common symptoms are fear of losing controlgoing crazy or even die.

Panic attacks may occur frequently, e.g. once a week or even more often, usually lasting a few minutes, rarely lasting for hours and sometimes are associated with specific situations, e.g. driving a car. When they are strongly associated with situational trigger factors they are defined as panic attacks caused by the situation (or provoked by the situation). When the exposure to the stimulus and the attack there is a relationship, but less strong compared to the previous case, we talk about panic attacks sensitive to the situation. Finally, the attacks may also occur in the presence of mental states appear to be benign, such as during relaxation or sleep, or in situations in which it seems to be entirely unjustified;  in these cases we talk about unexpected panic attacks (uncued).

According to the directives of the DSM-IV anxiety disorder involves the presence or absence of agoraphobia. Agoraphobia (from the greek agora, which means “marketplace”) is a differentset of fears that key items and public places frequented, where it can be difficult to get away or in which help may not be available if the individual is suffering from a panic attack. To simplify things, it could be summarized as agoraphobia fear of having a panic attack.Agoraphobics  are afraid to go shopping, to being in the crowd and to travel.

People suffering from agoraphobia often test a strong discomfort while abandoning the house, and can also avoid it completely. In these cases we talk about panic disorder with agoraphobia.