Panic Disorder is a very common condition, affecting about 2.6% of the population at any given time. Panic Disorder is characterised by having had two or more panic attacks, followed by at least one month of apprehension or anxiety about having another attack. Most people with Panic Disorder, however, have more than two panic attacks and have been apprehensive about the attacks for much more than one month. Individuals with Panic Disorder often worry that a panic attack is:

  1. Actually a serious medical problem (e.g., heart attack),
  2. That it might have negative physical consequences (e.g., lose control while driving),
  3. That it might have negative psychological consequences (e.g., going "crazy"),
  4. That it might have negative social consequences (e.g., embarrassment).

Apprehension about having panic attacks can lead to people avoiding places or situations in which they have previously had panic attacks, or believe they might have panic attacks. This is known as Agoraphobia.

Panic attacks are rushes of intense fear, terror, or anxiety that are accompanied by symptoms such as:

  1. Racing or pounding heart,
  2. Shortness of breath,
  3. Choking sensations,
  4. Shaking or trembling,
  5. Dizziness or lightheaded feelings,
  6. Nausea,
  7. Numbness or tingling sensations,
  8. Tight or painful chest,
  9. Sweating,
  10. Fears that you may be dying, losing control, or going crazy.

People with other anxiety disorders may also experience panic attacks when in feared situations, but individuals with Panic Disorder also experience panic attacks at times or in places where they wouldn't expect to have a panic attack.

Treatment

Panic Disorder is a very treatable condition. Both specific medication and Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy have been shown to help people overcome their panic and anxiety, although Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy appears to have better long-term effects than medications.