Anxiety Clinic

Panic Disorder (with or without agoraphobia)

What is panic disorder?

Panic disorder is characterized by repeated panic attacks that are unexpected. Panic attacks are episodes of sudden fearfulness or terror that are accompanied by several physical symptoms. People with panic disorder typically live in dread of having another panic attack and may worry about the implications of the panic attacks (for example, fear that the panic attacks mean that they are going to have a heart attack, faint, have a stroke, suffocate, go crazy, hurt someone, or experience some other catastrophe). A common effect of having panic attacks is that a person begins to avoid situations where they had a panic attack or avoid situations in which they believe having a panic attack is likely. This avoidance is referred to as agoraphobia. Often the situations that are most feared are ones in which escape would be difficult or in which help may not be readily available. Individuals may begin to stay in their house and avoid places such as the grocery store, buses, driving, elevators, churches, movie theaters, restaurants, and sporting events.

Symptoms commonly associated with panic attacks:

  • Sweating
  • Racing or palpitating heart
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of choking
  • Chest Pain
  • Nausea or stomach pain
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Chills or hot flashes

What is the impact of panic disorder?

  • People with this disorder use a lot of medical resources
  • They are more likely to be hospitalized for physical problems than people with other psychiatric disorders
  • They miss twice as many work days as the average person
  • It is associated with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, GAD, and social phobia

How common is panic disorder?

Panic disorder with agoraphobia has a lifetime prevalence rate of approximately 3.5%