Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a serious medical condition that includes sudden attacks of fear or nervousness as well as physical symptoms including sweating, a racing heart or other frightening feelings.  During a panic attack, the sufferer’s fear response is out of proportion for the situation.  Sufferers of Panic Disorder often come to fear fear itself and begin avoiding everyday experiences and activities in an attempt to keep from having another attack.

Signs and Symptoms of Panic Disorder

Symptoms of panic attacks include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pounding heart
  • Chest pain
  • Intense feeling of dread
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sensation of choking or smothering
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or stomachache
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
  • Chills or hot flashes


Causes of Panic Disorder

The exact cause of Panic Disorder is not known, but studies have shown that it is most likely a combination of factors that contribute to Panic Attacks and the development of Panic Disorder.  You are more likely to develop Panic Disorder if you have a family history of mental health problems.

Common problems associated with Panic Disorder include:

  • Poor school and work performance
  • Avoiding friends or family
  • Self Harm
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicide


Panic Disorder is a treatable illness.  The firstline treatment for Panic Disorder is psychotherapy.  Psychotherapy helps the client talk through strategies for understanding and coping with their disorder.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of psychotherapy that can help a client learn to recognize and change their thought patterns and behaviors.  The therapist will also help the client identify possible triggers for their panic attacks.

Sometimes clients require medication in combination with therapy.  Some of the most common medications used to treat panic disorder are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Paxil or Zoloft.