Impending environmental catastrophe, threat of terrorism, viruses both biological and virtual, disease: there seem to be so many reasons to panic today. But what is panic and why does it happen? This book uses a range of literature from sociology, cultural studies and popular psychology to develop an original analysis of panic in contemporary social life. Bringing together academic literature from a range of disciplines, films, novels and current affairs, it encourages thought about why and how we panic - both individually and collectively. Keith Tester explores how cataclysmic events and smaller-scale episodes expose the fragility of our relationships, institutions and expectations. He shows how thinking about panic reveals key aspects of contemporary social, cultural and personal relationships. Panic is a highly readable and incisive introduction to the subject for students, scholars and all those who want to know what panic means and why it is important.