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Conditions InDepth: Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a common type of anxiety disorder. It leads to repeated, sudden bursts of terror called panic attacks. People may also have a racing heart, shaking, or trouble with breathing during the attack. These symptoms can be so intense, many mistake it as a heart attack.

People with panic disorder often worry about having more panic attacks. This may stop them from doing some activities or social events. Over time, the worry can increase. It can interfere with work, school, and relationships.

It is not clear why some people develop a panic disorder. It can be a common issue in some families. The disorder may start after a stressful life event. Other may worry intensely over smaller day to day problems. These events may change how sensitive the body is to stress and lead to panic attacks.

Other mental health issues may also be present. Panic disorder may be linked to:


Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml. Updated July 2018. Accessed February 26, 2019.

Panic attacks and panic disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/anxiety-and-stressor-related-disorders/panic-attacks-and-panic-disorder. Updated July 2018. Accessed February 26, 2019.

Panic disorder. Anxiety and Depression Association of America website. Available at: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/panic-disorder. Accessed February 26, 2019.

Panic disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115030/Panic-disorder. Updated September 21, 2018. Accessed February 26, 2019.

Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 2/26/2019