Panic disorder is a type of
anxiety disorder. It is known for bursts of terror known as panic attacks. These attacks are not only feelings of terror but also cause intense physical symptoms. It can feel similar to a
Panic attacks can cause people to withdraw to avoid events that trigger attacks. This can cause a lot of problems in day to day life and relationships.
The cause of panic disorders is not clear. A mix of events, genetics, or other health factors may play a role. They may cause changes in how the brain understands and reacts to stress.
Things that may increase your chance of panic disorder include:
Family history of anxiety
Poor coping skills
History of physical or sexual abuse
Stressful life events
High sensitivity to physical sensations
History of another anxiety disorder or being an anxious person
Cigarette smoking during adolescence and young adulthood
Panic attacks can cause:
Sudden and intense episodes of fear
Racing, pounding, or skipping heartbeat
Chest pain, pressure, or discomfort
Choking sensation or lump in the throat
Tingling or numbness in parts of the body
Chills or hot flashes
Shaking or trembling
Feelings of unreality or being detached from the body
An urge to flee
Fear of impending doom such as death, a heart attack, suffocation, loss of control, or embarrassment
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will also be done. The doctor will ask some questions about mental health and stresses. It is important to be honest and open with answers. This will help to make a diagnosis and find the right treatment.
Treatment can help to decrease the number and intensity of panic attacks. It can improve quality of life. There is no 1 plan for treatment. A combination of steps will be planned based on individual needs. Treatment steps may include:
Education helps people to better understand what panic disorder is and how it can be treated. Knowing that symptoms are not life-threatening can help. Education can also help to set realistic goals for overcoming the disorder.
Learning about panic disorder is enough to help some relieve symptoms.
8/22/2006 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116901/Agoraphobia: Furukawa TA, Watanabe N, Churchill R. Psychotherapy plus antidepressant for panic disorder with or without agoraphobia: systematic review. Br J Psychiatry. 2006;188:305-312.
Last reviewed January 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 08/12/2020
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