Panic Disorder: An Overview

Living with anxiety can be a daily struggle for some people, but for those living with panic disorder, their anxiety can escalate to the point where they experience unexpected and overwhelming panic attacks. Panic disorder is a debilitating and chronic condition that can disrupt an individual’s daily life. In this article, we’ll discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatments of panic disorder.

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder in which an individual experiences unexpected and intense panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear that come along with several physical symptoms, including sweating, heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, and feelings of dizziness or nausea. These attacks are unpredictable and can occur at any time, often causing people to avoid certain situations or environments out of fear of another attack.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

The symptoms of panic disorder can vary from person to person, but generally, people with panic disorder experience recurring and unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour and can cause debilitating physical symptoms, including:

  • Racing heart or heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Nausea or stomach issues
  • Feeling a sense of dread or impending doom
  • Numbness or tingling in extremities

In addition to panic attacks, people with panic disorder may experience ongoing anxiety and may constantly worry about when the next attack will occur. They may also become increasingly avoidant of certain situations or environments in an attempt to prevent a panic attack from occurring.

Causes of Panic Disorder

The exact causes of panic disorder are unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some potential causes and risk factors of panic disorder include:

  • Family history of anxiety and panic disorders
  • Major life changes or stressful events, such as a job loss or the death of a loved one
  • Traumatic experiences, such as physical or emotional abuse
  • Biochemical imbalances in the brain
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol

Diagnosis of Panic Disorder

If you are experiencing symptoms of panic disorder, it is essential to seek the help of a medical professional. A doctor will perform a physical exam and may also run tests to rule out any other medical conditions that may be causing symptoms. They may also refer you to a mental health professional for further evaluation.

A mental health professional will evaluate the frequency and severity of your symptoms and may use diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). To be diagnosed with panic disorder, an individual must have experienced at least one unexpected panic attack followed by persistent worry for at least one month about having another attack or the implications of the attack. The panic attacks must also not be attributable to another medical condition or the use of substances.

Treatments for Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is treatable, and a combination of psychotherapy and medication can help manage symptoms and improve an individual’s quality of life. Some effective treatments for panic disorder include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that cause or exacerbate symptoms of anxiety. CBT can help individuals with panic disorder learn coping mechanisms for managing panic attacks and address any underlying issues that may be contributing to their symptoms.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing individuals to feared situations or environments, which can help desensitize them to the triggers that cause their panic attacks. This approach can help individuals with panic disorder gain confidence and reduce their avoidance behaviors.


Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can be helpful in treating panic disorder. These medications work by altering the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain to reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. It is essential to work with a medical professional to determine which medication is right for you and to monitor any potential side effects.


Panic disorder can significantly impact an individual’s daily life, but with proper treatment, it is possible to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. If you believe that you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of panic disorder, it is essential to seek the help of a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.


What is Panic Disorder?

Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. These panic attacks are sudden bouts of intense fear or discomfort that lead to physical and emotional symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, and feeling like you’re losing control.

What Causes Panic Disorder?

The exact cause of Panic Disorder is not known. However, research suggests that a combination of factors, including genetics, environmental stressors, and panic-related thoughts or behaviors, can contribute to the development of this disorder.

What are the Treatments for Panic Disorder?

There are several treatment options available for Panic Disorder, including medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and beta-blockers are commonly prescribed medications, while Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a popular form of psychotherapy. Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding trigger substances (such as caffeine and alcohol) and engaging in regular exercise, can also be effective in managing this disorder. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of treatment for you.


1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

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3. Batelaan, N. M., De Graaf, R., Spijker, J., Smit, J. H., Van Balkom, A. J. L. M., & Vollebergh, W. A. M. (2014). The course of panic disorder in the general population: A first prospective study from the Netherlands. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 55, 87–95.