A panic disorder occurs when people regularly have panic attacks, with no clear reason for them. Anxiety and panic are normal and natural, particularly in stressful situations. However, someone with a panic disorder really has no control over these feelings, and can experience them at any time.

Panic Attack Causes:

It isn't truly understood what causes a panic disorder, although it is believed that psychological and physical factors are at play. Some of those include:

Traumatic life experiences:



Increased sensitivity to carbon dioxide

Catastrophic thinking

Panic Attack Signs & Symptoms:

If you suffer a panic attack, you are likely to become very frightened and distressed. Symptoms and signs tend to come on without warning or reason. Besides feeling very anxious, people with a panic disorder also experience:





Hot flushes

Feeling like choking

Shortness of breath


Chest pain

Feeling faint


Dry mouth

Pins and needles or numbness

Ringing in the ears

Needing the toilet

Fear of dying

Feelings of dread

Tingling fingers

Churning stomach



The above list describes mainly the physical symptoms. Added to that are feelings of terror and fear. This is a problem because patients will start to fear the next attack, and this very fear often sends them into the next one. Indeed, they often literally "live in fear". It is very common, for instance, for patients to believe that they are having a heart attack, even requesting immediate medical assistance. A panic attack, in reality, will last around 20 minutes and is not lethal, even if it is recurrent. Some people, and particularly those who have recurrent panic attacks, even experience depersonalization, which means they have an outer body experience, completely losing control over their own bodies.

Panic Attack Treatments:

When someone is diagnosed with a panic disorder, the main treatment is to lower the recurrence of the attacks. This is usually done through a combination of medication and psychological therapy. It is very important to seek medical advice, so that the right form of treatment can be offered. Usually, those treatments are:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT

Support groups

Antidepressants (tricyclic antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – SSRIs)



Psychiatric referrals

Unfortunately, while medication is often highly effective for the treatment of panic disorders, it also comes with significant side effects. These side effects can be so severe that the quality of life of the person with the panic disorder doesn't improve at all, or even worsens. It is for this reason that the strongest focus should be on CBT, therapy, and support groups, with medication being used while being carefully monitored by a physician. The goal is to keep the dosage as low as possible, and to gradually reduce it over time. In so doing, people do not become dependent on the medication either. Drugs like clonazepam and pregabalin are addictive, which means that patients will need help to stop taking them once they have beaten their panic disorder as well.