panic attack


plural panic attacks
: a sudden feeling or episode of panic
specifically : a brief episode of intense fear or dread that is of sudden onset and typically subsides within 30 minutes, usually occurs for no apparent reason but may sometimes be associated with an identifiable triggering stimulus (such as an existing phobia), and is accompanied by a sense of unreality and impending loss of control and by various debilitating physical symptoms (such as increased heart rate, chest pain, dizziness, and shortness of breath)
Those undergoing a panic attack often believe they are suffering a heart attack or some other illness. Lillian Lee Kim
Agoraphobia is a fear only of fear itself, that is, of any situation where help would be unavailable and escape difficult in case of a panic attack. The Harvard Mental Health Letter
compare anxiety attack

Examples of panic attack in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The panic attacks began in the fall, during my first stay in Stockholm. Vadim Smyslov, WIRED, 21 Feb. 2024 Then, in the middle of all that, a panic attack changed everything. Patrick Frater, Variety, 20 Feb. 2024 The interview was her first since being hospitalized after suffering a panic attack in September. Brian Brant, Peoplemag, 29 Jan. 2024 Stallings said that after her son-in-law was killed, her daughter began having panic attacks that made her mental illness more challenging. Keith L. Alexander, Washington Post, 28 Jan. 2024 Returning professional emails gives him panic attacks. Julie Seabaugh, Los Angeles Times, 20 Jan. 2024 The filing claims that Croft experienced panic attacks before massage appointments at home. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 16 Jan. 2024 In periods of economic recession, negative mental health symptoms like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and self-harm tend to increase, according to a study in Behavioral Sciences. Amiah Taylor, Discover Magazine, 5 Jan. 2024 This past week, he’s alternated between comforting Smith through bouts of vomiting and panic attacks and organizing protests. Brenna Ehrlich, Rolling Stone, 25 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'panic attack.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1958, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of panic attack was in 1958

Dictionary Entries Near panic attack

Cite this Entry

“Panic attack.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Medical Definition

panic attack

: an episode of intense fear or apprehension that is of sudden onset and may occur for no apparent reason or as a reaction to an identifiable triggering stimulus (as a stressful event)
specifically : one that is accompanied by usually four or more bodily or cognitive symptoms (as heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, or feelings of unreality) and that typically peaks within 10 minutes of onset
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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