Akeem Marsh, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to working with medically underserved communities.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by intense, recurrent, and unexpected panic attacks. Fear and anxiety are common reactions to scary or stressful events, but a person with panic disorder experiences symptoms including severe feelings of terror, rapid breathing, chest pain, and an accelerated heart rate—either out of proportion to the situation, or occurring repeatedly without clearly identifiable stressors.
The exact causes of panic disorder are not clearly understood, but experts believe a combination of psychological, behavioral, and environmental factors are at play.
Panic disorder affects 2.7% of the U.S. adult population each year. Fortunately, with a combination of therapy and medication, people with panic disorder can manage their condition.
A panic attack comes on suddenly and usually involves intense feelings of terror, fear, or apprehension even though there is no sign of actual danger. When a person is having a panic attack, the symptoms typically peak within 10 minutes, but can also last longer.
An anxiety disorder is a significant mental health issue that causes people to feel significant worries and fears that do not go away on their own. Treatment is essential for anxiety disorders because they tend to get worse over time and can interfere with a person’s daily life.
A psychological evaluation is a series of tests and assessments designed to measure and observe a person’s thoughts and behaviors. When the psychologist or therapist has completed the evaluation, they typically make a diagnosis and recommend treatment options. Psychiatrists and general practitioners are also able to diagnose panic disorder through broader mental health evaluations.
CBT is a type of therapy designed to help a person identify destructive behaviors and thought processes. When using CBT, the therapist challenges the person’s thoughts and behaviors and suggests more realistic options as replacements.
National Institute of Mental Health. Panic disorder. Updated 2016.