Panic Disorder Symptoms Physical Symptoms of Panic Disorder and Anxiety These disorders often co-occur with other conditions By Katharina Star, PhD Katharina Star, PhD Facebook LinkedIn Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness. Learn about our editorial process Updated on March 24, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print bymuratdeniz / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Chest Pain Shortness of Breath Headaches and Migraines Irritable Bowel Syndrome Muscle Pain and Tension Tiredness and Insomnia People diagnosed with anxiety disorders like panic disorder often experience uncomfortable physical symptoms, including sweating, accelerated heart rate, shaking, and trembling. Given the severity of these physical symptoms, it's not surprising that many people with panic disorder seek emergency medical care. One 2016 study reported that there were 1,247,000 anxiety-related ER visits annually. However, due to the complexity of the condition, the wide range of symptoms, and the similarity to other illnesses, panic disorder is often misdiagnosed in emergency rooms. Empower yourself by knowing these common physical symptoms and co-occurring conditions associated with panic disorder and anxiety. Chest Pain Chest pain is one of the most frightening physical symptoms of panic attacks. This is also the symptom that most often sends people with panic disorder to the emergency room. When chest pain occurs during a panic attack, it's not uncommon for the person to believe they are experiencing a medical emergency, such as a heart attack. Fortunately, panic attacks are typically not life-threatening. However, only a doctor or other medical professional is qualified to make a proper diagnosis and determine if a person’s chest pain is a symptom of a panic attack or is actually caused by a separate medical condition. Shortness of Breath Many people report that they find it difficult to breathe during a panic attack. Some describe it as a suffocating or smothering feeling; others say it's more like a choking sensation. Regardless of how it's described, shortness of breath can be a frightening experience, and one that may lead to a fear of fainting or even death. This, in turn only, heightens panic and anxiety. Even though shortness of breath can be scary and upsetting, it's often manageable with coping techniques, such as deep breathing exercises. Headaches and Migraines People with panic disorder are more prone to experiencing headaches. Additionally, those diagnosed with panic disorder have also been found to experience migraines and other severe headaches. Many people with panic disorder have reported that headaches and migraines often develop right after a panic attack. Treatment options for panic disorder and co-occurring headaches and migraines are available. Some medications used to treat panic disorder have been found to be a safe and effective way to also treat co-occurring headaches. However, some medications for panic disorder may actually contribute to headaches. Talk to your doctor about a treatment plan to help you manage both conditions. The Link Between Migraines and Panic Attacks Irritable Bowel Syndrome Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder estimated in some studies to affect up to 20% of U.S. adults. The symptoms of IBS include bloating, frequent stomachaches, diarrhea, cramping, and constipation. Studies have found that IBS is more prevalent among people with anxiety disorders. Both IBS and panic attacks involve a great deal of anticipatory anxiety, feelings of embarrassment, and avoidance behaviors. IBS and panic disorder have both been found to respond favorably to medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of these two treatment options. Muscle Pain and Tension Experiencing frequent feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety can impact the body by contributing to muscle pain and tightness. Muscle tension is a common problem for people with panic disorder. Typically, muscles become tense during a panic attack and can cause feelings of stiffness throughout the body long after the attack has subsided. Muscle pain and discomfort can often be managed through relaxation techniques. Exercises that can help calm and relax the body include breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization. There are many self-help books that provide examples and instructions on these techniques. Yoga is an activity that includes many aspects of relaxation with the additional benefits of exercise for panic disorder. Can Yoga Help Anxiety and Panic Disorder? Tiredness and Insomnia Chronic worry, simply put, is exhausting, so it's typical for people with anxiety disorders like panic disorder—which often creates a cycle of fear about having another panic attack—to be fatigued. Sometimes worry or other symptoms of anxiety make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. In turn, this can take a toll on other aspects of physical and psychological well-being. For people experiencing even mild sleep disruptions, anxiety treatment is likely to involve changes to the bedtime routine. A Word From Verywell While anxiety conditions are very common, they often go undiagnosed or untreated. Because women are affected at approximately twice the rate of men, experts now recommend that girls and women over the age of 13 should be screened for anxiety as part of routine preventative healthcare. You should talk to your doctor if you are concerned about any of the symptoms of panic disorder or anxiety that you are experiencing. If you or a loved one are struggling with panic disorder or anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. What Is Panic Disorder? 4 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Dark T, Flynn HA, Rust G, Kinsell H, Harman JS. Epidemiology of emergency department visits for anxiety in the United States: 2009-2011. Psychiatr Serv. 2017;68(3):238-244. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201600148 Belleville G, Folds-Busque G, Marchand A. Characteristics of panic disorder patients consulting an emergency department with noncardiac chest pain. Prim Psychiatry. 2010;17(3):35-42. Grzesiak M, Beszłej JA, Mulak A, et al. The lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders among patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Adv Clin Exp Med. 2014;23(6):987-992. doi:10.17219/acem/37356 Gregory KD, Chelmow D, Nelson HD, et al. Screening for anxiety in adolescent and adult women: A recommendation from the Women's Preventive Services Initiative. Ann Intern Med. 2020. doi:0.7326/M20-0580 Additional Reading American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th edition. 2013. By Katharina Star, PhD Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Panic Disorder Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.