by Amy Scholten, MPH
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 heart attack.
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:
Panic attacks can cause:
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.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy. Therapy focuses on:
Medicine may help to ease symptoms. It may be used to help therapy. Medicine that may be used are:
There are no steps to reduce the risk of a panic disorder. Steps that may lower the risk of a panic attack are:
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Mental Health America
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Canadian Psychological Association
Answers to your questions about panic disorder. American Psychological Association website. Available at:
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Accessed January 31, 2020.
Panic disorder. Anxiety and Depression Association of America website. Available at: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/panic-disorder. Accessed January 31, 2020.
Panic disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115030/Panic-disorder . Accessed January 31, 2020.
8/22/2006 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://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: 8/12/2020
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