Is It Panic Disorder, or Something Else?

During a panic attack, your brain and body respond with a fight/flight/freeze response. 

Typically, you'll notice your heart rate increase, breathing will become more shallow, and your muscles will tense up. You'll experience a strong urge to fight or run away, or you may feel frozen in the situation.

What else could be going on?

Those physical cues of a panic attack could be cause by another medical concern

Some people experience a irregular heartbeat, and others with asthma often experience shortness of breath. So instead of just looking toward the physical cues of panic attacks, check in with your thoughts. Do you  notice yourself feeling very anxious about something? Has something set you off?

What's the setting?

Another big clue that it's anxiety rather than another physical issue: you notice the breath shortness, muscle tension, or heart racing in the same type of situation over and over again. This is a clue that your anxiety is being set off, rather than you just experiencing a symptom of another physical concern. 

What to do?

If it's a panic attack, focus on stepping out of the situation, finding a quiet area such as a bathroom stall, and just focusing on your breathing. 

But if this is the first time you've experienced symptoms like this, check in with your doctor and see if there's something else going on. Medical professionals are trained to help you figure out if the symptoms are truly panic, or another serious concern.

Experiencing panic attacks? Feeling worried about feeling worried? Kelsey specializes in anxiety tools for kids, teens, and college and knows you can experience panic attacks at any age. Kelsey's office is located in Webster Groves, and she works with clients around the St. Louis, MO area, including Brentwood, Webster Groves, University City, Town and Country, Creve Couer, Ladue, and Clayton. You can email her at with any follow up questions.