Panic Disorder involves having repeated panic attacks without an obvious trigger or cause. However, many people have panic attacks in their lifetime (sometimes even frequently) without developing panic disorder. For an individual to be diagnosed with panic disorder, they must also begin worrying about when the next panic attack will occur and what the consequences of the attack will be.
A panic attack involves a sudden rush of fear (usually out of the blue), and may involve some of the symptoms below:
- Pounding or elevated heart rate
- Shortness of breath or feeling smothered
- Chest pain
- Choking Sensations
- Excessive Sweat
- Dizziness, feeling faint, or feeling unsteady
- Chills or hot flashes
- Feeling nauseous or abdominal distress
- Numbness or tingling in the face, hands, or legs
- Feeling you or your surroundings are strange or unreal
- Fear of dying (for example, having a fear that you will die of a heart attack)
- Being afraid that you might go crazy
- Being afraid that you might do something out of control
Additionally, some people with panic disorder develop what we call agoraphobia. Agoraphobia, simply put, is avoiding situations and places where you fear that a panic attack might occur. Most people with panic disorder develop some level of agoraphobia.
Some of the most common situations that people with panic disorder avoid include:
- Crowded public places
- Enclosed and confined places
- Driving (particularly on highways and bridges, bad traffic, and over long distances)
- Being away from home (or being far away from home)
- Being alone
If you or a loved one is suffering from Panic disorder, please remember that effective evidence-based anxiety treatments have been consistently shown to help individuals with Panic disorder to take back their lives from the clutches of anxiety.