Panic Disorder: Everything You Need To Know

  • Time to read: 7 min.

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When most people think of panic disorder, they might imagine a person with a serious illness that causes them to have panic attacks frequently. Panic disorder is actually a type of anxiety disorder, which is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable or intense worry.

While it’s true that people with panic disorder may experience panic attacks, this isn’t always the case. In fact, many people who suffer from panic disorder never experience a single attack.

So, what exactly is panic disorder? Well, let’s take a closer look.

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by frequent and unexpected panic attacks. What makes panic disorder unique is that these attacks can happen without any obvious trigger. For example, a person with panic disorders might have a panic attack while they’re driving, even if there’s no apparent reason for them to feel anxious or scared.

While panic disorders can be a very frightening condition, it’s important to remember that it is treatable. With the help of a mental health professional, people with panic disorder can learn to manage their anxiety and live full, healthy lives.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

The symptoms of this disorder can vary from person to person. However, there are some common signs that may indicate that someone is suffering from this condition. These several symptoms include the following.

Unexplained and Sudden Panic Attacks

As we mentioned before, one of the key symptoms of this disorder is experiencing sudden and unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is a period of intense fear or anxiety that can last for several minutes. During a panic attack, a person might experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, and dizziness.

While panic attacks can be very frightening, it’s important to remember that they are not dangerous. In most cases, panic attacks will go away on their own after a few minutes.

Avoidance Behavior

Another common symptom of panic disorder is avoidance behavior. This is when a person starts to avoid places or situations where they have previously experienced a panic attack. For example, someone with this disorder might avoid driving because they had a panic attack while they were behind the wheel.

Avoidance behavior can be very disruptive to a person’s life. In severe cases, it can cause a person to become housebound.

Intrusive Thoughts

People with panic disorder may also experience intrusive thoughts. These are unwanted and intrusive thoughts that can cause a person to feel anxiety or fear. Intrusive thoughts are often about things that the person is afraid of, such as death or injury.

Intrusive thoughts can be very distressing and can make it difficult for a person to concentrate on anything else. In addition, they may start to avoid activities that trigger their intrusive thoughts.

Changes in Sleep and Appetite

Many people with this disorder also report changes in their sleep and appetite. They may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. They may also find that their appetite has changed and they are either eating more or less than usual.

Changes in sleep and appetite can be indicative of a more serious problem, such as depression. If you or someone you know is experiencing these changes, it’s important to talk to a mental health professional.

Anxiety Interfering with Work, School, or Other Aspects of Daily Life

Finally, another common symptom of panic disorder is when anxiety starts to interfere with work, school, or other aspects of daily life. For example, someone with panic disorder might start missing work or school because they’re too anxious to leave the house.

Not only that, but living with panic disorder can be extremely difficult. The constant anxiety and fear can take a toll on a person’s mental and physical health such as:

  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Relationship problems

Treatment for Panic Disorder

Fortunately, this disorder is a treatable condition. There are a variety of effective treatment options available that can help people with panic disorder manage their anxiety and live full, healthy lives.

Some of the most common treatment options for this disorder include the following.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

This is a type of therapy that helps people with panic disorder identify and change the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their anxiety.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatment options for panic disorder. In fact, research has shown that CBT can be more effective than medication in treating panic disorder.


There are several types of medication that can be used to treat panic disorder. The most common type of medication is antidepressants. Antidepressants are effective in treating this disorder and can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.

In addition to antidepressants, there are also anti-anxiety medications that can be used to treat panic disorder. These medications can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and make it easier for a person to cope with their condition.

Tips for Managing Panic Attacks

There are a number of things that you can do to help manage your anxiety and reduce the likelihood of having a panic attack. Some of the most important things to remember are:

1. Identify your triggers: One of the first steps in managing your anxiety is to identify the things that trigger your panic attacks. Once you know what your triggers are, you can start to avoid them or prepare for them in advance.

2. Learn relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques can be very helpful in managing anxiety and reducing the symptoms of panic attacks. There are a number of different relaxation techniques that you can learn, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation.

3. Challenge your negative thoughts: Another helpful way to manage your anxiety is to challenge the negative thoughts that contribute to your anxiety. When you’re feeling anxious, it’s easy to focus on the worst-case scenario and believe that it’s inevitable. However, by challenging your negative thoughts, you can start to see that they’re not necessarily true.

4. Seek professional help: If you’re struggling to manage your anxiety on your own, it’s important to seek professional help. A mental health professional can help you identify the cause of your anxiety and develop a treatment plan to address it.

5. Live a healthy lifestyle: Finally, living a healthy lifestyle can also help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep are all important for managing anxiety.

By following these tips, you can start to manage your anxiety and reduce the likelihood of having a panic attack.

How Can Family and Friends Help?

If you have panic disorder, it’s important to have the support of your family members and friends. Here are some things that they can do to help you:

Listen and Offer Support

One of the most important things that your family and friends can do is to listen to you and offer their support. It can be helpful to talk to them about your anxiety and how it’s affecting your life.

Educate Yourself About Panic Disorder

It’s also important for your family and friends to educate themselves about panic disorder. This way, they can better understand what you’re going through and how they can help you.

Encourage Treatment

If you’re working with a mental health professional to treat your panic disorder, it’s important for your family and friends to encourage you to stay in treatment. Treatment can be very effective in managing panic disorder, but it’s important to stick with it.

Offer Practical Help

Finally, your family and friends can also offer practical help. This may include helping you to stick to your treatment plan, offering to drive you to appointments, or just being there for you when you need them.

Support Groups for People with Panic Disorder

If you have panic disorder, you may also find it helpful to join a support group. Support groups provide a place for people with anxiety disorders to share their experiences and offer support to each other. There are a number of different types of support groups, such as online groups, in-person groups, and phone groups.


If you have panic disorder, there are a number of things that you can do to manage your anxiety. Remember to identify your triggers, learn relaxation techniques, challenge your negative thoughts, and seek professional help. Additionally, living a healthy lifestyle can also help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Finally, don’t forget to lean on your family and friends for support.

FAQ – Panic Disorder: What to Know

What causes a panic disorder?

Panic disorder is a mental illness that causes people to experience sudden and repeated attacks of intense fear. These attacks can cause physical symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, trouble breathing, constant worry, sudden attacks, losing control, negative emotions, or abdominal pain.

How panic disorder is treated?

There are a variety of ways to treat panic disorder. One common approach is cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people learn how to identify and manage the thoughts and feelings that lead to panic attacks. Another approach is medication, which can help reduce the symptoms of panic disorder. Some people also find self-help strategies helpful, such as relaxation techniques or breathing exercises.

What do panic disorders feel like?

For some people, the fear of having a panic attack can be even worse than the actual attack itself. This leads to what’s known as anticipatory anxiety, where a person becomes scared of feeling anxious or panicky thinking about their next panic attack and begins to avoid any situation that might trigger an attack or overwhelming fear. This can eventually lead to a restricted lifestyle and serious problems with daily functioning.