Treatment for panic disorders is a necessity for those who suffer from its scourging effects. Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes repeated, unexpected attacks of intense fear. These attacks may last from minutes to hours.
The exact cause of panic disorders is unknown. Genetics may play a role. Studies suggest that if one identical twin has panic disorder, the other twin will also develop the condition 40% of the time. However, panic disorder often occurs in family members who are not blood relatives.
Panic disorder is twice as common in women as in men.
Symptoms usually begin before age 25. Although panic disorder may occur in children, it is often not diagnosed until they are older. People with this condition often have medical tests and exams for symptoms related to heart attack or other conditions before a diagnosis of panic disorder is made.
With panic disorder, at least four of the following symptoms suddenly occur within 10 minutes. Attacks may be followed by at least 1 month of persistent fear of having another attack.
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Fear of dying
  • Fear of losing control
  • Feeling of choking
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Palpitations or pounding heart
  • Sensation of shortness of breath
  • Sweating, chills, or hot flashes
  • Trembling or shaking
There are often extreme changes in behavior at home, school, work, or with family. People with the disorder often worry about the significance of their panic attacks. They may think they are "going crazy" or having a heart attack.
A person with panic disorder often lives in fear of another attack and may be afraid to be alone or to be far from medical help.
Exams and Tests
A health care provider will perform a physical examination, including blood tests and a psychiatric evaluation. Medical disorders must be ruled out before treatment for panic disorders can be diagnosed.
Disorders related to substance abuse should also be considered, because some can mimic panic attacks. Substance abuse also can occur when people who have panic attacks try to cope with their fear by using alcohol or illegal drugs.
Cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory, and nervous system (neurologic) disorders can be present at the same time as panic disorders. Specific tests will vary from person to person depending on the symptoms.
Many people with panic disorder first seek treatment for panic disorders in the emergency room, because the panic attack feels like a heart attack.

Panic attack is the most paralyzing and fearsome experience that one can go through. I began having symptoms of panic attack in my preteen years and by the time I entered my teens I was terribly shy, withdrawn, and felt irrational fear of others. As a result I never made friends very easily and developed a mistrust of people. I became a loner and very lonely and could not seem to escape from the cage that had become in a strange ironic way, my place of refuge. I trusted no one so I kept to myself and felt happier being alone and doing my own thing, so to speak. Yet, I was very lonely and unhappy. I wanted to escape and spread my wings but how? I was not a quitter and I did move forward with my life, surprisingly in a very public field of service and just carrying the dark cloud of shyness and suspicion of those around me. I never really knew why I felt the way I did until I began to research the topic of anxiety disorders. I very recently began to realize that I have been suffering from anxiety or panic attacks for years and have in my own way been dealing with the stress of it all. Treatment for panic disorders is offered in this excellent book Panic Away which has been a tremendous help to me in coming to terms with what I have been struggling with for a long time.