Symptoms of panic syndrome: see and identify

The symptoms of a panic attack are usually mixed and involve a series of emotional and physical symptoms that, when taken together, give the patient the feeling that he is dying or that something very bad is about to happen.

For patients, especially during an episode, it can sometimes be very difficult to see that it is a panic attack. However, for third parties, the task may be a little easier, since they are not so emotionally weak.

Understand how the condition affects the organism:


Physical symptoms

We can say that the symptoms of a panic attack occur because the body is, in a way, preparing to escape a dangerous situation, a real threat, such as a fire. They occur mainly because there is an adrenaline rush that causes a series of physical changes in the body.

As these changes are unexpected and usually do not make sense to be occurring at that very moment, the person creates justifications that are often unrealistic to try to deal with the unexpected adrenaline rush.

Check out the main symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate;
  • Increased respiratory rate (hyperventilation);
  • Dryness of the mouth;
  • Feeling of shortness of breath;
  • Chest pain or discomfort;
  • Tremors;
  • Excessive sweating;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Mild or weak dizziness;
  • Paresthesia (tingling or numbness).

How hyperventilation causes other symptoms

Hyperventilation is an increase in respiratory rate . It is one of the main symptoms present in a panic attack and can trigger a series of consequences in various parts of the body.

This is because, during hyperventilation, the human body expels an excessive amount of carbon dioxide, unbalancing the acid-base control of the blood. When the decrease in carbon dioxide in the body occurs, it results in an increase in blood pH.

The increase in pH, in turn, translates clinically into the reduction of free calcium in the circulatory system, causing symptoms throughout the body. Understand:

Central nervous system

The lack of free oxygen to the brain causes an arterial vasoconstriction system to activate, which can bring symptoms such as:

  • Vertigo;
  • Vision darkening;
  • Feeling faint.

Peripheral nervous system

These problems directly affect the transmission of stimuli by sensitive nerves. This makes the patient feel paresthesia (tingling) in several regions. Paresthesias are quite characteristic: they start from the periphery to the center of the body.

That is, the individual may begin to complain of tingling that begins at the fingertips and extends to the arms.

Read more:  What are the symptoms of Paresthesia?

Skeletal muscle

The  hypokalemia  (low calcium levels circulating in the blood) increasing muscle excitability. This can have the consequence of:

  • Tremors in the extremities:  the patient’s hands are shaking;
  • Muscle spasms:  small muscle groups contract, such as the eyelids, neck, chest and arms;
  • Tetany:  rarer, tetany is persistent muscle contraction. In such cases, it is common for the patient to complain of difficulty opening their eyes, high chest pain and tightness in the throat.

Extreme stress

High levels of stress cause the body’s hormones to become unbalanced, increasing the frequency of the heartbeat and causing symptoms such as nausea. In addition, this extreme stress can compress the organs, affecting breathing and causing a number of other symptoms.

Emotional symptoms

Due to the surprise caused by the appearance of physical symptoms, the patient may experience a series of emotional symptoms that, if left untreated, can lead to recurrent seizures.

Emotional symptoms, therefore, occur during the crisis and also in the later moments, when the physical signs are no longer present.

During seizures, the patient may experience:

  • Blocked feeling;
  • Feeling excluded or separated from their surroundings;
  • Fear of losing control and “going crazy”;
  • Feeling like you’re going to die.

These sensations are unreal and do not represent anything concrete. They happen because the mind is looking for logical justifications for all the physical sensations it is experiencing. However, despite being frightening, the patient will not die because of physical symptoms. After a while, they will pass and there are techniques to make them disappear more easily.

Still, many patients may experience a range of other symptoms after a seizure. The person may start to feel depressed due to the crises, since the symptoms can have a great impact on their  self-esteem .

The patient begins to feel that he is no longer useful, that he is useless, that he only interferes with other people’s lives, or that he is inferior to others. These thoughts are not representative of a concrete reality, as anyone can suddenly suffer a panic attack and find themselves in this weakened position.

Therefore, it is important to emphasize that, if these emotional symptoms are not treated, it may happen that the patient ends up entering the cycles of panic, which can cause the crises to become chronic.

When this happens, that is, when multiple crises occur on a recurring basis, we can say that the patient is suffering from panic disorder or syndrome.

Panic Crisis or Panic Syndrome?

There are differences between panic attacks and panic syndrome. Many people experience panic attacks without further recurring episodes or complications. In such cases, the problem cannot be diagnosed as Panic Syndrome.

The syndrome only occurs when the episodes are recurrent, combined with intense changes in behavior, such as persistent anxiety and stress or the difficulty of leaving home for fear of new crises.

In these cases, recurrent crises represent a great emotional burden on the patient’s life. The memory of the intense fear and terror experienced during the episodes can negatively affect the patient’s self-confidence and cause serious disturbances in daily life. In this case, the rule is simple: a single crisis of a few minutes can leave scars that are long-lasting and difficult to treat.

Eventually, this can cause the patient to experience:

  • Anticipatory anxiety:  the patient feels tense even in situations where he should be calm. This anxiety usually occurs due to the fear of new crises. It is famous for “fear of being afraid”, and it can be extremely disabling;
  • Phobic avoidance:  the patient can begin to avoid different situations or environments, based on the belief that the situation he is avoiding is the cause of the previous panic attack. Another justification is the fear of places where escape would be difficult or where help would not be available.