A panic attack is an episode of intense anxiety that shows up with physical symptoms and with fearful thoughts. Physical symptoms may include include a fast or irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, nausea, trembling or shaking, chest pain, sweating, numbing or tingling sensations , chills or hot flashes and feeling dizzy. Fearful thoughts may include fears of losing control or going crazy or fear of dying. People can have panic attacks without having panic disorder. People with the latter have multiple, unexpected panic attacks and worry about panic attacks in between the events.

The estimated lifetime prevalence rate of panic disorder in African-Americans is 3.1%; however there is concern the disorder is under-diagnosed in African Americans. There may be a tendency to focus on the physical symptoms of the disorder and have medical care and evaluation rather than psychological evaluation.

Blacks with panic disorder are more likely to have something called “isolated sleep paralysis”. With isolated sleep paralysis, when someone is just waking up or as they are falling asleep, he/she is awake but feels unable to move and may see vivid hallucinations.

Since hypertension or high blood pressure is so common in African Americans, it is worth noting that a link has been found between panic disorder and high blood pressure.