Persons with panic disorder experience recurrent, unexpected periods of intense anxiety called panic attacks. These attacks can be very disabling. Sometimes the symptoms are so intense that the individual thinks he or she is having a heart attack and dying. It is not uncommon for persons experiencing a panic attack to make a trip to the emergency room.
Signs of a panic attack can include:
- Pounding heart, increased heart rate
- Profuse sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Sensation of choking
- Nausea, abdominal distress
- Dizziness, unsteadiness, feeling faint
- Feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself
- Fear of losing control
Panic disorder often begins in the late teens and can appear for the first time up to the mid-30s. Often a person can begin to associate the attacks with the places where they occur. Over time, these places are avoided, and the person's activities become very limited.
Panic attacks can be treated with medication. In addition, avoidance behavior due to panic attacks also responds to supportive therapy.
If you or someone you know appears to suffer from panic disorder, call for help.