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    Panic Disorder

    What is a Panic Disorder?

    Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that causes panic attacks. Panic attacks are an intense fear or discomfort when there is no real danger. It can reach a peak within minutes and involve at least four symptoms from below:


    Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate


    Trembling or shaking

    Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering

    Feeling of choking

    Chest pain or discomfort

    Nausea or abdominal distress

    Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded or faint

    Chills or heat sensations

    Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations

    Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)

    Fear of losing control or going crazy

    Fear of dying

    The cycle of a panic disorder


    Recognizing panic disorder

    How you might think:

    Thoughts that something terrible is about to happen

    Thoughts that you are going to die

    Thoughts that you have to escape right now

    How you might feel:

    A feeling of coming doom






    Short breath

    Heart racing



    How you might act:

    Escape situations that you see as dangerous

    Take protective actions (safety behaviors) to help manage in situations you are afraid of

    Avoid situations where you have panicked before or where you worry you might panic

    Stay vigilant for body sensations or cues that could indicate the onset of a panic attack

    Causes of a Panic Disorder?

    Strong biological reactions to stress: Some people’s bodies produce more stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

    Anxiety sensitivity: Some people are more sensitive to the feeling of their bodies. They are most likely to notice them and misinterpret them as dangerous.

    Cognitive Biases including catastrophizing: These ‘ thinking habits’ that create an end of the world mindset may have been learned through our caregivers.

    Other psychological problems: people suffering from a wide range of psychological problems such as OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) or PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) usually experience panic attacks.

    Genetic Factors: Some genes predispose people to develop emotional problems in general but no specific genes which predispose people to develop panic

    Who does it affect?

    Panic disorder can affect anyone but it usually begins in the late teens or early adulthood. Women are more likely to have a panic disorder.


    Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the treatment of choice for panic disorder. Medication should be only used in the long-term management of panic disorder and be very selective.