Panic Disorder is a serious condition that affects about one out of every 75 people.  It usually appears during the teen years or early adulthood, most often during stressful situations or major life transitions.

Examples include such events as graduating from college, getting married or having a child.  While the exact causes are unclear, panic disorder may be genetic.  If a family member has suffered from panic disorder, there is an increased risk of suffering from it.

Panic disorder can lead to other complications such as phobias, depression, substance abuse, medical complications or even suicide.  Phobias developed by people with panic disorder do not come from fears of actual objects or events, but rather from fear of having another attack.  Individuals will avoid certain objects or situations because they fear such actions will trigger another attack.

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and seemingly without any apparent reason.  Panic attacks are not dangerous, but can be terrifying because it feels “crazy” and “out of control.”  Its effects range from mild social impairment to a total inability to face the outside world.

Symptoms of a panic attack

  • racing heartbeat
  • difficulty breathing, feeling as though you “can’t get enough air”
  • terror that is almost paralyzing
  • dizziness, light-headedness or nausea
  • trembling, sweating, shaking
  • choking, chest pains
  • hot flashes, or sudden chills
  • tingling in fingers or toes (“pins and needles”)
  • fear that you’re going to go crazy or are about to die

During a panic attack, these symptoms seem to arise out of nowhere, without any warning and no way to stop them.  They may happen in seemingly harmless situations and can even happen during sleep.  The level of fear is way out of proportion to the actual situation.  Symptoms generally pass in a few minutes (the body cannot sustain the “fight or flight” response for longer than that), but repeated attacks can continue to recur for hours.

Treatment

A combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies generally is the best treatment for panic disorder.  Medication also might be appropriate in some cases.

If you think that you are someone you care about is suffering from Panic Disorder, please consider scheduling an appointment to talk with
and iTherapy.com counselor.

See Also

Some of our
Panic Disorders/Attacks Counselors

Blog Posts about Panic Disorders/Attacks