Panic disorder is characterized by chronic, repeated and unexpected panic attacks — bouts of overwhelming fear of being in danger when there is no specific cause for the fear. In-between panic attacks, the person worries excessively about when and where the next attack may occur.

What are the characteristics of a panic attack?
Panic attacks can accompany several types of anxiety disorders — not only panic disorder. They may include any of the following symptoms:

  • chest pain
  • chills or hot flashes
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • fear of “going crazy” or dying
  • fear of losing control
  • feeling unreal or disconnected from oneself
  • nausea or abdominal pain
  • numbness
  • physical symptoms that mimic a heart attack
  • pounding heart
  • sensation of choking
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking

Medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy can help to prevent panic attacks or reduce their frequency and severity.

Who is affected by panic disorder?
Panic disorder typically occurs in late adolescence or early adulthood, but may also begin in childhood. Women are twice as likely to experience this disorder, and some people may be genetically predisposed to the disorder. About 1- 2 percent of Americans suffer from panic disorder.