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Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by repeated attacks of intense fear that something bad will happen.

The cause of panic disorder is not known however it is believed that genes may play a role. Panic disorder is twice as common in women as it is in men. Symptoms of a panic disorder usually begin before the age of 25 but can begin to occur in the mid 30’s. Panic disorder can occur in children even though it is most likely not diagnosed until they are older.

Panic disorder is categorized by panic attacks that begin suddenly. Panic attacks that are associated with a panic disorder usually peak within 10-20 minutes. Some symptoms can go on for as long as an hour or even longer. A panic attack is even sometimes confused for a heart attack.

Panic attacks include anxiety. This anxiety could be about any kind of situation where escape is difficult such as being in a crowd or traveling in a car or bus.  A person with a panic disorder often lives in absolute and total fear of another attack. The person with the panic disorder may be afraid to be alone or far from medical aid.

People with a real panic disorder usually have at least 4 of the following symptoms during a panic attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Fear of losing control or impending doom
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Feeling of choking
  • Fear of dying
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, or face
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sweating, chills, or hot flashes

Panic disorders have the ability to change a person’s behavior at home, school, or work. People with a panic disorder often panic about the effects of their panic attacks. People with a panic disorder may also have:

  • Alcoholism
  • Depression
  • Drug Addiction

Many people with panic disorder will go to the emergency room because they think they are having a heart attack. The doctor or health care provider will then perform a physical exam including a psychiatric evaluation. Blood tests will be done. Other mental health or medical disorders must be ruled out before panic disorder can be fully diagnosed. These kind of disorders are quite frequently related to substance abuse. Sometimes the person may just be on a substance and not even having a panic attack.

The treatment for panic disorder is fairly simple. Panic disorder treatment goals are to help you function in your day to day life. A mixture of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy works best for those with a panic disorder. Antidepressant medications are most often the medication prescribed for anyone with a panic disorder. These usually include:

  • Prozac
  • Zoloft
  • Paxil
  • Anti-seizure medicines are used in really severe cases and benzodiazepines such as Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, or Ativan can be used for a short amount of time

There are some things that can help with panic disorder in order to reduce the number of panic attacks you may have. For instance:

  • Eating at regular times
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Reducing or avoiding caffeine, cold medicines, and stimulants

Panic disorders last for a long time and can be really hard to treat and cannot be cured. Some people with panic disorder may not ever be cured with treatment. Most people with panic disorder do get better though with a combination of medicines and behavioral therapy.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for their Panic Disorder please call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at



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