Psychologists classify intense fear accompanied by four of a group of predetermined symptoms as a panic attack, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Panic attacks peak within a few minutes of onset.
Palpitations, accelerated heart rate or pounding heart, sweating, shaking or trembling, and a sensation of smothering or shortness of breath accompany the intense discomfort or fear of a panic attack, explains the ADAA. The sufferer may experience choking sensations, discomfort or pain in the chest, abdominal distress or nausea, or a feeling of faintness, and lightheadedness or dizziness. Other symptoms include sensations of heat or chills, tingling or numbness. Some people report feelings of depersonalization and fears of losing control or dying during the panic attack.