Is Your Anxiety Caused by Panic Disorder?

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Most people feel a certain amount of stress and anxiety in their lives. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In many situations, feeling a certain level of stress and anxiety can actually help boost your performance in specific contexts. For example, a person may experience a level of anxiety the days leading up to a public speech, marriage, or another big life event.

In many situations, a bit of stress and worry can be expected and is considered a perfectly normal reaction. When faced with an upcoming project at work, an important event, or even a blind date, most people will encounter a fleeting sense of nervousness and extra tension. However, persistent and strong feelings of nervousness and anxiety may be a much bigger concern. Anxiety and panicky feelings that linger long after a stressor has passed, or which occur without any clear reason, may indicate that you are struggling with an anxiety disorder.

Panic Disorder

Feeling panicky doesn’t necessarily mean that you have panic disorder. Feelings of panic and anxiety can vary from person to person. In order for these signs to be considered panic attacks, you must experience at least four of the following physical, mental and emotional symptoms:

Panic attacks are the main feature of panic disorder. Attacks associated with this condition occur suddenly without any warning or trigger. They arise seemingly from nowhere, typically reaching a peak in the first 10 minutes and then gradually subsiding.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

GAD is marked by unrelenting anxiety that occurs for no known reason. Symptoms of worry and nervousness persist for six months or longer. Feelings of fatigue and irritability, difficulty concentrating, and sleep problems are all common problems for people living with GAD.

Specific Phobias

Phobias involve a fear of a certain object, place or situation. The feelings of fear the person experiences is excessive—beyond how most people would react and greater than any actual threat of harm. Many specific phobias have their own names. For example, the fear of flying is known as aerophobia and the fear of spiders is called arachnophobia. When faced with his phobia, a person may recognize that his fear is irrational. However, he will still display extreme reactions and can even potentially have a panic attack.

Social Anxiety Disorder

SAD involves a fear of being judged by others in social situations. In particular, the person believes he is being negatively evaluated by others. Thinking about being perceived poorly by others only makes the person exhibit more uncomfortable behaviors, such as trembling, sweating, shaking, or blushing. People with SAD often stay away from social events or any situations in which the person may be exposed to the scrutiny of others.


Often occurring with panic disorder, agoraphobia entails a fear of having a panic attack in places or situations that the person may find socially embarrassing or challenging to escape from. To save face or to feel more secure, many agoraphobics exhibit avoidance behaviors. Common avoidances include crowded areas, open spaces, and vehicles of transportation. In some extreme cases, the person is so fearful that she becomes homebound with agoraphobia.

Discovering Your Diagnosis

Seek professional help if you experience ongoing feelings of stress, worry, fear, or anxiety. Only a doctor or qualified mental health specialist can determine an accurate diagnosis. Once diagnosed, your clinician will review your treatment options.

Panic Disorder Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide to help you ask the right questions at your next doctor's appointment.

Mind Doc Guide

Common treatments for anxiety disorders include prescribed medication, psychotherapy and self-help strategies. Treatment options and results can vary depending on your symptoms, resources, and level of commitment. Through continued treatment and follow-up, people with anxiety disorders can expect to improve their control over their symptoms.

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Article Sources

  • American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.