Panic Disorder

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Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is noted by sudden, seemingly out-of-nowhere panic attacks. This is often combined with a great preoccupied fear of experiencing these panic attacks.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 6 million people in the United States experience panic disorder each year.

Types of Panic Disorders

The primary symptom of panic disorder is the sudden, unexpected panic attacks, which are characterized by physical symptoms of sweating, rapid heart beat, and difficulty breathing. These are different from feelings of fear and anxiety stemming from normal stressful moments. Over time, you will develop a fear of having panic attacks.

There are a few types of panic attacks:

  • Situationally bound, or cued, attacks occur when you are subjected to or anticipating a specific panic trigger.
  • Situationally predisposed attacks are similar to cued attacks but don’t always happen when subjected to a triggering situation or during exposure to a trigger. For example, you may be afraid of heights but not always have a panic attack when you’re high up or may have a panic attack after being in a skyscraper for a long period of time.
  • Unexpected, or uncued, panic attacks occur without any cue, internal or external.

Panic Disorder Symptoms

The physical symptoms associated with panic disorder, include:

  • Intense feelings of dread
  • Sensation of smothering or choking
  • Dizziness
  • Shaking
  • Nausea

  • Stomachache
  • Tingling and numbness in fingers and toes
  • Fear of dying
  • Fear of losing control

Risk Factors and Causes

Panic disorders can be caused by a variety of potential risk factors that combine the environment, personal health, and family history. Symptoms for panic disorders often exhibit themselves in the late teens or early adulthood.

Other potential risk factors of panic disorder include:

  • A family history of panic disorder
  • A traumatic event
  • A major stress or life change (divorce, lost job, addition of a baby to the family)

  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • A history of physical or sexual abuse as a child
  • Abnormalities in the brain, particularly areas that regulate stress responses

Treatment for Panic Disorder


Treatment for panic disorders often combines a variety of different methods. Medication can be used to help correct chemical imbalances in the body. Antidepressants, particularly serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Paxil and Zoloft, are often prescribed to treat panic disorder. Anti-anxiety medications, like Ativan, Klonopin, and Xanax, can also help to treat panic disorders. For situational anxiety, your doctor may prescribe beta-blockers and other heart medications.


Psychotherapy plays a huge role in reducing panic disorder. It can help address how you respond to stress and response to panic attacks. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you learn to identify triggers and better recognize and alter thoughts and habits that can lead to negative emotions.


HARP can provide assistance for panic disorders caused by or associated with drug abuse. If you have any questions or are ready to get help today, please give us a call at (877) 806-5022.

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