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Dr. Anthony Freire Text was Updated on: 03/09/2022 Next review: 03/03/2023

Panic Disorder

What is Panic Disorder? IS panic attack different from anxiety?

Panic disorder is a psychological disorder in which a person suffers an unexpected recurring panic attack. This disorder is often combined with anxiety disorder. But panic attack and anxiety disorders are different. The symptoms of both disorders might be the same but the triggering factors are different in both cases.

This article covers the triggers, symptoms & signs, a condition in a panic attack, and treatment of panic attack.


Panic attack or panic disorder is often characterized as an anxiety disorder. But the fact is anxiety is caused by stressors. Anxiety attacks are the result of fear or apprehension. The symptoms are somehow similar to panic attacks such as short breath or increased heartbeat rate. But unlike the panic attack, the anxiety attacks are rather short-lived and only lasts as long as there is a stressor.

On the other hand, a panic disorder is not a result of a stressor like fear or apprehension. The actual cause or trigger of panic attacks are still unknown. Panic attacks last for minutes and if untreated can be harmful. A panic attack is unpredictable and unprovoked. In a panic attack the person feels like they are going to die of a heart attack or has no control over themselves.

There is another disorder which is often linked with a panic attack. This disorder is known as the Limited Symptoms Attack, in which the symptoms or signs are same as compared to anxiety or panic attack. But the symptoms are limited and short-lived. People who have panic disorder sometimes experience both the panic attack and Limited symptoms attacks at a time.

Panic disorder is one of the most common disorders in the world. A survey has shown that 2.5% people experience or suffers from a panic attack in their life. Studies and pieces of researches conducted on panic disorder have shown that women are more prone to panic disorder as compared to men. Panic disorder can begin at any age but a common observation is people experience panic attacks in early adulthood or after adolescence.

What are the symptoms of Panic Attack?

Panic attacks are characterized by an elevated heartbeat and shortness of breath. But there are more signs and symptoms of panic attacks. Unlike anxiety attack, the symptoms of panic attacks occur within the minutes.

Other symptoms and signs of Panic attack include:

  • Chest pain, Nausea, and Dizziness.
  • Loss of control.
  • Palpitations, sweating and shaking.
  • Numbness and loss of sensation.
  • Paralysis, Choking, Faintness, crying, chills & Hot flashes.
  • Fear and worry of next panic attack.

Duration of Panic Attack?

Panic attack duration is different as compared to anxiety attacks which are not long. The onset of a panic attack is sudden and recurrent and the duration for each attack varies from person to person. A panic attack once begins can be lasted maximum for an hour. The shortest duration of a panic attack is about 1 to 2 minutes. On an average, a person suffers from panic attack for 10 minutes.

What are the causes of Panic Attack?

The cause of the panic attack is not certain and still unknown. But there are certain risk factors which might be the reason for causing panic disorder.

It is believed that one of the factors which might cause panic disorder in a person is genetics. It is observed that people having a family history of the panic disorder or even anxiety disorder, shows more symptoms of panic attacks as compared to people having no history of anxiety or panic disorder.

Many pieces of researches have done on panic disorders which have shown that panic disorder is a result of environmental and physiological factors. While some of the researches think that our brain or some parts of the brain plus the biological factors such as genetic mutations or hormonal imbalance can also cause Panic Disorder in persons.

Panic disorder is often observed in people having a history of sexual abuse or child abuse. Even the people who are indulged in smoking shows symptoms of panic and chronic panic disorder. It is believed that a panic attack can also be provoked or triggered by external stimuli such as fear of heights or dark or something else. Whatever may be the cause of panic disorder it is essential to get its treatment on time.

Is there a treatment for a panic attack?

As panic disorder is correlated with anxiety and limited syndrome attack disorder, therefore, it is essential to first discuss the symptoms which you are experiencing. Panic disorder is further distinguished into mild panic disorder and chronic panic disorder. So it is recommended to first approach your physician or psychologist before taking any kind of treatment. The treatment method is based on the condition and severity of panic disorder and hence every patient is treated accordingly.

There are three ways to treat panic disorder:

  • Psychotherapy.
  • Medication.
  • Medication plus Psychotherapy.

What is Psychotherapy Treatment and how it is Helpful?

Panic disorder is often treated by using Psychotherapy. It is a first-line treatment for dealing with panic disorder. Psychotherapy is actually a cognitive behavioral therapy also known as (CBT). In this treatment, the patients are taught to use various different ways to divert their mind while experiencing a panic attack.

They are told how to behave, react and think while going through a panic attack or when you are about to have a panic attack.

With this treatment, the patients learn how to cope better with their feelings and control their emotions during a panic attack. Psychotherapy enables the persons suffering from panic disorder to relax on their own during a panic attack.

The results of psychotherapy are very positive and effective in reducing the frequency, duration, and fear of a panic attack.

What are the Medications used for Panic Attack?

Psychotherapy is the first approach to treat panic disorder by the doctors. But if it does not work out, then they prescribe you some medications for reducing the panic attacks. The medications are only to be taken on the recommendation of doctors because the medications used for treating panic disorder are also used to treat other psychiatric disorders such as depression.

The medications used for treating panic disorders include:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Beta-blockers
  • Benzodiazepines

The SSRIs and SNRIs are also used for treating depression. Which is why it is highly recommended t take only if your doctor has suggested you. These medications also have side effects such as nausea, headache, and sleep difficulties such as insomnia. To avoid the side effects, you need to take medications on proper prescribed time and within the prescribed amount. Excess of medications will only result in a harm and will not treat panic disorder.

Beta-blockers help in controlling the physical symptoms such as elevated heartbeat, trembling, or shortness of breath. Beta blockers are least advised by the doctors because these medications are believed to trigger and elevate the panic attacks even more.

Moreover, the Benzodiazepines are sedatives which are strongly effective to reduce the symptoms of panic disorders rapidly. But this medication can develop tolerance and dependence over the period of time, hence must be taken only when prescribed by the doctor. Over-dose of all of these medications is harmful to both physical and mental health.

Why it is necessary to get treatment for Panic disorder?

Persons who suffer from panic disorder are always in a fear of having the next panic attack. This fear of panic attack isolates them from the people around them because they fell ashamed and embarrassed of their condition during a panic attack. Also, the attacks are so sudden and recurrent that persons with panic disorder feel comfortable and safe at their home.

his isolation and constant fear & worry about the next attack causes depression and other psychiatric disorders in the person. Panic disorder if remains untreated can cause low-self-esteem and low confidence levels. Moreover, persons with prolonged panic disorder are more prone to drug abuse and hypertension.

Other ways to cope with panic disorder?

There are other ways to treat panic disorders by using some natural measure. These remedies include:

  • Reduction in daily caffeine intake.
  • Regular walk.
  • Regular Yoga or exercise.
  • Sufficient Intake of water.
  • Proper intake of meals.
  • Avoiding places or events which are likely to provoke panic attacks for a time.
  • Taking proper sleep.
  • Avoiding substance abuse or smoking.


It is very important to talk about the panic disorder because if it remains untreated it can be led to a less productive and reduce lifespan. Moreover, with as long the as the disorder grows severe it will trigger some other disorders like depression and anxiety. All these factors will result in poor quality of life. it will affect your social life as you will feel the need to isolate yourself to avoid the embracement caused by the panic disorder.

It is suggested to consult a doctor if you are having symptoms of panic disorder. Today it is easier seek out help. If you are unable to talk about your condition to your doctor make sure to talk to a friend.

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