Panic Disorder - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a common mental health problem that causes bouts of overwhelming fear when there is no specific cause for the fear. If you have repeated, and unexpected panic attacks, you may have panic disorder. In between panic attacks, you may worry greatly about when and where the next one may happen. It can even keep you from leaving your home.

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a sudden onset of intense fear, discomfort or terror. It reaches a peak within minutes and can last from a few minutes to an hour or sometimes longer.

A panic attack generally includes at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or sensations of smothering
  • Sense of choking
  • Nausea or belly pain
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Feeling unreal or disconnected from oneself
  • Fear of losing control or "going crazy"
  • Fear of dying
  • Numbness
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Chest pain and other symptoms that mimic a heart attack

Diagnosing and Treating Panic Disorder

Panic attacks can happen in other types of anxiety disorders, too. Generally, if you have four or more panic attacks and if you always worry about having another, you may have panic disorder and should consult a Crozer-Keystone behavioral health specialist.

Treatment may include anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, combined with counseling or psychotherapy.

Treatment for panic disorders is usually quite effective. Treatment will help you learn to recognize that the symptoms are not life-threatening. You will also learn coping skills and ways to relax  to decrease the intensity and length of the panic attack.