Panic Disorder

Those who suffer from Panic Disorder have recurrent, unexpected panic attacks.  These panic attacks are difficult to predict and the patient usually feels that they have come out of the blue.  Panic can occur during a time of existing anxiety, but it can also occur when the person is in a calm state, such as relaxing or engaging in an enjoyable activity.  Often, people who experience recurrent attacks begin to avoid going places or social situations in which they believe they could have an attack.
Diagnostic Criteria

The patient has at least one panic attack that is followed by at least a month of the person fearing that they will have more attacks

Panic Attack requires 4 or more of the following symptoms:

* Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate


*Trembling or shaking

*Sensations of shortness of breath

*A feeling of choking

*Chest pain or discomfort

*Nausea or abdominal distress

*Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint

*Fear of losing control or going crazy

*Fear of dying

*Numbness or tingling sensations

​*Chills or hot flashes


The  presence of panic attacks is required for a potential diagnosis of panic disorder, and therefore the primary symptoms are essentially the physiological symptoms noted in the diagnostic criteria.

Panic attacks often pass in 5-10 minutes but they can linger for hours.

Many people feel that they might be having a heart attack, so they go to the emergency room for evaluation, but a panic attack is not life threatening.

Panic attacks can be a symptom of other anxiety disorders as well

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):  CBT is a first-line treatment for panic disorder.  Patients can learn to react differently when they experience the early symptoms that they might be about to have a panic attack.

Clinets can learn physiological self-management strategies such as deep breathing and relaxation techniques. A therapist might also teach the client interoceptive exposure training so that they become more used to the physiological symptoms of a panic attack.

Medication:  Medication is also often used in conjunction with CBT to treat panic disorder.  Typical medication that are prescribed by the M.D. are Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).