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Panic Disorder : Anxiety Disorder, Symptoms & Causes

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

Panic Disorder (PD) is a severe psychiatric disorder that affects about 5% of the population at some point in their lives. Also known as Panic Attack Disorder, it involves recurrent panic attacks, which are sudden bouts of intense fear or discomfort that typically last a few minutes and can cause significant terror and disruption to daily life




What is Panic Disorder ?

PD and Panic Attacks (PA) are distinct. The former is characterised by sudden, frequent, and intense episodes of anxiety or fear without prior warning, while the latter is understood as a sudden surge of intense fear or discomfort that peaks instantly. Most individuals have one or two PAs in their lifetime. However, PD occurs when frequent, unexpected PAs have no apparent cause.

PD is known to be a benign disease that can lead to depression and disability. In addition, these patients have a higher chance of developing alcoholism and substance abuse than the general population. This condition can affect your quality of life so miserably that it will be difficult for you to concentrate. However, the good news is that Panic Disorder is treatable. 

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

Some common symptoms of a panic attack may include the following.

  • Palpitations

  • Breathlessness

  • Feeling of choking

  • Dizziness

  • Lightheadedness

  • Nausea

  • Chills or sweating

  • Shaking

  • Hot flashes

  • Sense of unreality or dreamlike sensations

  • Chest discomfort

  • A fear of dying

A panic attack might be induced by a specific incident or external stimulation. At times, the symptoms of a panic attack appear for no apparent cause. Due to their unexpected nature, they can have a considerable impact on your daily life. 

Causes of Panic Disorder

The causes of PD are still unclear. However, certain common causes for developing the condition may include the following.

1. Genetics

According to research, PD may have a hereditary component. Researchers have found that there are 40 different genes associated with Panic Disorder, the majority of which are connected to our body's neurotransmitter system (which regulates communications between our nerve cells). 

2. Life events

PD is related to major life transitions and stressful life events, such as fighting with family members. Even when life events are exciting and pleasant, they can introduce new obstacles and anxiety into your everyday life.

Examples of such transformations and occurrences are as follows.

  • Leaving home to attend college

  • Relocating to some other place

  • The loss of a loved one

  • Leaving family members after marriage

  • Having your first kid

  • Beginning a new career

Taking care of your emotional and physical health is essential throughout life transitions. You also have the right to get support while dealing with challenges or trauma.

Try seeking emotional assistance from your loved ones. When you are feeling overwhelmed, set limits and communicate. A mental health professional or a therapist can share your pain by listening, giving information, and assisting you in developing coping strategies.

3. Anxiety

Anxiety typically manifests as worry, nervousness, or feeling overwhelmed. Social anxiety, for example, might develop when you are concerned about performing at social events or at places with a large number of people. You may feel extremely self-conscious and may experience physical symptoms such as sweating or shaking.

It is natural for humans to be worried at times. However, being nervous all of the time is a matter of concern and may indicate a generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

You don’t have to be constantly worried and stressed. If you often feel anxious, it is essential for you to reach out for help. Anxiety can be managed with therapy, lifestyle changes, or medication.

How is Panic Disorder diagnosed?

There is no particular lab test for Panic Disorder. Since the symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack, your doctor will most likely begin by evaluating you and ruling out other health conditions. 

If no other ailment is driving your symptoms and you've experienced the following, it is considered as PD.

  • Two or more unexpected panic attacks (PA)

  • Living in fear of having another episode

  • Concerned about losing control during a PA

  • Avoiding situations that might trigger a PA by changing your behaviour

If you have such symptoms, you are most likely to have Panic Disorder.

Treatment of Panic Disorder

Treatment can help lower the severity and frequency of your PA and improve your everyday functioning. The primary treatment options include psychotherapy and medications.

1. Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): It teaches you how to think, behave, and react to the feelings that occur during or before a PA. It helps people learn about the disorder and helps them to know new ways of thinking and reacting to anxiety-provoking situations. Therapists in cognitive behaviour therapy help patients understand and learn the challenges and helpful ways of thinking, then replace their old ways of thinking with more realistic and helpful ones.

Cognitive therapy can be used alone or in combination with antidepressants to treat PD. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a common form of therapy and is helpful for people to alleviate their symptoms.

Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a common CBT approach that involves facing Panic Disorder-related anxieties and beliefs to help you participate in previously avoided activities. It may be combined with relaxation techniques.

2. Medication 

Medication may include the following.

  • Antidepressants 

  • Beta-blockers

  • Anti-anxiety drugs, such as benzodiazepines

Some common physical symptoms, such as a high heart rate, sweating, and tremors, can be controlled by beta-blockers.

Anti-anxiety sedative drugs such as benzodiazepines can be especially useful in swiftly alleviating PA symptoms. However, some people may develop a tolerance to these drugs and require higher dosages to get the same benefit.

Frequently asked questions 

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to Panic Disorder.


Can we live a normal life with Panic Disorder?

Managing anxiety can be challenging, but it's possible to live a normal life with proper treatment and support. To successfully manage your condition, it's important to normalise your anxiety, implement stress-reducing strategies, challenge negative thoughts, and prioritise self-care.

Is Panic Disorder a mental disorder?

Panic disorder is a common health issue in humans. It mainly starts in teens or adulthood, but some cases may also begin in childhood. It affects women twice as much as men. There might be a congenital connection too.

What is the main symptom of Panic Disorder?

Individuals with Panic Disorder feel a sudden surge of fear or discomfort or a feeling of losing control, even in the absence of a recognisable danger or trigger. Some common symptoms of a panic attack may include palpitations, breathlessness, a feeling of choking, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, chills or sweating, shaking, a sense of unreality or dreamlike sensations, and chest discomfort.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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