Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner

Panic Attack

  • Michael James Coons
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_1162



Panic attacks are a state of sympathetic nervous system arousal that results in a discrete episode of intense fear or discomfort in the absence of objective danger. This fear is accompanied by a host of somatic and cognitive symptoms. Symptoms include tachycardia (i.e., racing heart), sweating, palpitations, trembling, dyspnea (i.e., shortness of breath), feelings of being smothered or feelings of choking, nausea, chest pain, abdominal distress, dizziness, light headedness, derealization or depersonalization, numbness or tingling in the face or extremities, chills or hot flushes, fear of “going crazy,” fear of losing control, or fear of death from such an episode. Individuals must report experiencing at least 4 of the 13 possible somatic and cognitive symptoms. These aforementioned symptoms typically peak in intensity over a short period of time (i.e., 10 min or less). If individuals report experiencing excessive fear but manifest fewer than four...

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References and Readings

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders (Revised) (4th ed.). Washington, DC: APA.Google Scholar
  2. Antony, M. M., & Swinson, R. P. (2000). Phobic disorder and panic in adults: A guide to assessment and treatment. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. McCabe, R. (2001). Panic disorder and agoraphobia: A brief overview and guide to assessment. In M. M. Antony, S. M. Orsillo, & L. Roemer (Eds.), Practitioner’s guide to empirically based measures of anxiety (pp. 87–94). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Preventive MedicineFeinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern UniversityChicagoUSA