What is Panic Disorder?

During a panic attack, a person experiences sudden extreme terror and a strong bodily response. Anyone can have a panic attack in a highly stressful situation, but people with a panic disorder typically have them more often, and between panic attacks experience fear and anxiety about when the next one will occur. Panic disorder is a class of anxiety disorder that often causes sufferers to withdraw from normal activities in an attempt to avoid places or situations in which a panic attack has previously occurred or out of fear of having a panic attack in a setting where it could be embarrassing or dangerous.

What are the symptoms of panic disorder?

A panic attack is characterized by a feeling of intense terror and may also include symptoms such as racing heart, difficulty breathing, sweating, dizziness, and blurred vision. The key symptom of panic disorder is being in constant fear of having another panic attack in the future and the avoidance of places or situations due to this fear.

What causes panic disorder?

Like other anxiety disorders, the exact cause of panic disorder is not fully understood.  The cause of the disorder may vary between individuals. Researchers believe that there are many factors that can contribute to the development of a panic disorder, including family history and heredity, substance abuse, brain abnormalities, and extreme stress.

How is panic disorder diagnosed?

To diagnose panic disorder, our psychiatrists will rule out any physical illness that may be contributing to these symptoms.  Lab tests may be ordered as well.  A specialized interview we will performed to assess the frequency of panic attacks, duration of symptoms, and anxiety related to the attacks.

It is important to note that not everyone that has a panic attack has a panic disorder, many people will experience an occasional panic attack without hindrance to their daily lives. Panic attacks only become a disorder when the fear of the next panic attack begins to interfere with everyday life.

How is panic disorder treated?

There are several treatments available for panic disorder, including medication, therapy, lifestyle changes and relaxation techniques,. Our team can provide expert psychotropic medication treatment for the disorder, as well as provide therapy, likely Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in this case. CBT is used to help our patient learn to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome, anxiety-provoking feelings. Therapy also aims to identify possibly triggers for panic attacks.