If you happen to be surfing when a shark of a tsunami approaches, it would be normal to panic, try to swim away or scream. It would be a normal “flight or fight reaction”. But when you experience bouts of overwhelming fear or anxiety without specific threats triggering it, it is likely that you are going through a panic attack, which is suffered by between 10 and 15 percent of the population once in their lives, twice as common in women than in men. If you experience more than 4 of these, and you worry about when and where the next one may happen, it is likely that you might be diagnosed with panic disorder.
People find the first panic attack so terrifying that seldom forget it. Frequency of the attacks is a key factor to keep an eye on. Thus, it is important to distinguish isolated panic attacks from panic disorder condition, which tends to materialize if your life starts to be seriously affected by fear of suffering such attacks, if you avoid specific places in case you have an attack or if you experience these unpleasant events roughly once a month, for example.