Dealing With the Stigma of Panic Disorder in Your Life

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A stigma is a term used to describe false beliefs and negative evaluations placed on a person based on a particular characteristic. One of the challenges of living with panic disorder is learning to cope with the stigma connected to having a mental illness. Many people may discriminate against panic disorder sufferers due to lack of understanding, preconceived notions, and other biases.

Being stigmatized for having panic disorder can impact your relationships, career, and sense of self-worth. Being harshly judged by others for your condition may also be preventing you from seeking out the treatment you need. Despite these potential setbacks, there are ways you can deal with the stigma of panic disorder.

Understanding the Facts About Panic Disorder

The stigma of panic disorder is often related to the general public’s lack of knowledge on this condition. There are many misconceptions about panic disorder that can contribute to prejudices and false assumptions. For example, some people may believe that panic disorder sufferers are just overreacting. Others may think that people with anxiety disorders are emotionally fragile or unstable.

Educating yourself can help you counteract any negative responses that you have heard. Gather as much information as you can, such as learning about panic disorder symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Having the most accurate and up-to-date knowledge about panic disorder can help you deal with others’ false perceptions and judgments.

Loved Ones

Due to the stigma associated with mental illness, your loved ones may also feel a sense of shame about your condition. Friends and family may encourage you to hide your symptoms or suggest that you can easily control them. Even well-meaning loved ones can make the mistake of holding misconceptions about panic disorder. Furthermore, the stigma of having a mental illness may be preventing you from telling friends and family about your condition.

You may need to practice forgiveness in order to get past the potential negative judgments of loved ones. Telling others about your condition does not have to be difficult, but it is important that you are careful whom to share this information with. It is best to only tell loved ones whom you feel safe and secure.

Your Career

The panic disorder stigma can affect your career in numerous ways. For example, you may try to keep your condition a secret, fearing how coworkers may judge you if they knew. Perhaps you feel that you would miss out on opportunities or be treated differently if your colleagues were aware of your condition.

The difficult truth is that people with mental illness may suffer from discrimination at work. These types of judgments usually stem from a lack of knowledge and understanding about panic disorder. Dealing with this stigma while on the job will involve learning how to manage your condition so that it does not interfere with your work. To deal with panic disorder symptoms when you are at work, be prepared with a plan as to what coping skills you will use to control your symptoms while at work.


It is easy to get down on yourself when it seems like others are judging you. Dealing with the stigma of mental illness can contribute to negative self-judgments. For instance, you may blame yourself for your condition or perhaps you label yourself as “neurotic” or “crazy.” Stigmatizing yourself will only make your struggle more difficult and potentially contribute to lowered self-esteem.

Overcome your negative thinking and self-evaluations by first noticing your self-talk. If you find that destructive perceptions about yourself are dominating your thought process, try to replace them with more helpful thoughts. For example, perhaps you think to yourself, “My anxiety makes me seem strange to others,” or “I am unlikeable because I have panic disorder.” Try to turn these thoughts into more positive statements, such as “My symptoms may be stronger than most, but many people can relate to feelings of anxiety” or “I am a strong person who continues to work on my issues with anxiety.”

It can take a lot of practice, but the more you catch and replace negative self-talk, the better you will feel about yourself.

Finding the Help You Need

The stigma associated with living with an anxiety disorder can prevent a panic sufferer from seeking out treatment. However, getting a proper diagnosis and treatment can help you manage your symptoms and return back to your previous levels of functioning.

Panic Disorder Discussion Guide

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

Mind Doc Guide

If you believe that you are experiencing the symptoms of panic disorder, it's best to consult your doctor. Your physician will be able to get you started with a treatment plan and on your way towards recovery.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Prasko, J. , et al. (2011). Panic Disorder and Stigmatization. Activitas Nervosa Superior Rediviva, 53(4), 194-201.

By Katharina Star, PhD
Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness.