Panic Disorder


This is an anxiety disorder. With it, you have feelings of fear that overwhelm you. We call these "panic attacks." If you have panic disorder, you have these attacks repeatedly and at unpredictable times. They can happen without any warning. They can happen even when you don't know what is causing your fear.

Causes and Risk Factors

We don't know why people have this disorder. It's more common in women, and it can run in families. Most often, it starts in the late teens or early adulthood. It may be linked to a problem with the way your brain responds to stress and fear. You may have a higher risk for panic disorder if you abuse drugs or alcohol, or if you have experienced major life stress.


If you have this disorder, you have sudden, repeated panic attacks. They overwhelm you. They make you feel anxious and afraid. You may feel that you have lost control. You may feel that you are going to die. You may have physical symptoms, too. Your heart may race, your chest may hurt and you may have trouble breathing. You may tremble and sweat, and you may have chills. You may feel nausea, weakness or dizziness. Your hands may feel numb or tingly. Because panic attacks are so unpleasant, people with panic disorder tend to have intense worries about when the next one will happen. You may find yourself avoiding places where you have had an attack.


Panic disorder can be treated with medications. It can also be treated with talk therapy, which can help you learn to control your panic attacks. Your healthcare provider can create a plan that's right for you.