Panic Disorder: The Signs and Symptoms

While anxiety is a normal part of everyday life, persistent anxiety is typically a sign of an anxiety disorder. When anxiety is accompanied by severe stress and panic on a regular basis, a panic disorder may be the source.

The trademark feature of panic disorder is recurring panic attacks which are sudden unexpected terrifying feelings with little or nothing to provoke their onset. While panic attacks are the most distinct symptom, it is not the only one.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

The exact cause of panic disorder is unknown. However, genetics may play some role in its development. though diagnosis can also take place without a family history of it. Some risk factors may include experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, chemical imbalances in the brain, carbon dioxide sensitivity, or catastrophic thoughts. There are many symptoms that a person facing this disorder may experience.

Panic Attacks

This symptom can be understood as sudden and unexpected intense fear that often comes on without provocation. These attacks are severe and entirely consume the individual. With panic disorder, attacks are recurring and can happen at any time, typically lasting 5-20 minutes. The symptoms of these attacks include at least four of the following:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Pain in the chest or stomach region
  • Difficulty breathing as if choking
  • Feeling weak or dizzy
  • Sweating or feeling hot
  • Cold chills
  • Tingly or numb hands
  • Shaky limbs
  • Feeling detached from oneself
  • Fear of death or losing control


Persistent feelings of worry and stress both with and without reason. While anxiety can range in severity level, it tends to be on a higher scale in panic disorder. Severe anxiety typically interferes with daily life and creates avoidance patterns out of fear of more panic attacks. Unfortunately, this fear can ultimately lead to an increased number of attacks. Symptoms include:

  • A constant fear of panic attacks that creates a susceptibility to having more
  • Feelings of restlessness, being wound-up, or on-edge
  • Tired easily
  • Trouble focusing
  • Easily irritated
  • Various unexplained aches and pains
  • No control over persistent worry and stress
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying awake

Other Types of Anxiety Disorders

Panic disorder is a form of anxiety and falls under the anxiety disorder umbrella among many others. Other forms of anxiety include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

This is an anxiety disorder involving recurring anxiety and excessive worry or stress. Additionally, feelings of being tense and on edge occur even when stressful situations do not arise.

Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia

This is an anxiety disorder involving overwhelming anxiety and extreme self-consciousness when encountering social situations. It can be triggered by specific events or multiple. In more severe cases, it may be triggered by simply being around other people at any time.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

This is an anxiety disorder involving recurrent, unwanted thoughts or obsessions. It may also include repetitive behaviors, which are referred to as compulsions. These compulsions may consist of repetitive hand washing, counting, or cleaning. Compulsions are completed to alleviate the persistent and unwanted obsessions, though doing so only allows temporary relief.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This is an anxiety disorder that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event involving severe physical or emotional harm or danger. These events may include physical or sexual assault, natural disasters, serious car accidents, or military-related combat.

Treating Panic Disorder

It is important to know that help is available for panic disorder. A proper diagnosis is required before beginning treatment. Once a diagnosis has been established, individuals can build a treatment plan that suits their individual needs.

Medication is often prescribed for treating anxiety-related disorders and has been found to be very effective. However, not everyone needs or wants medication. Prescription drugs should be used on a case-by-case basis and depend on one’s personal circumstances.

People who don’t want medication or are not deemed to need it have found therapy to be very beneficial in treating panic disorder. There are multiple therapy options for treating panic disorder. but all typically utilize cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or subsets of it.

The primary approach in CBT is problem-solving. Individuals learn how to identify triggers of their panic or anxiety and how to successfully manage, defuse, and cope with it.

With the right guidance and care, anyone can live a life with their panic under control. No one has to live with constant panic attacks or the threat of them. All they need to do is reach out for treatment so they can not only overcome their panic, but can shine above it. Once one has obtained a proper diagnosis and started treatment one will be able to live life the way one wants to live it without the burdens of panic disorder.

Living with anxiety is complex, and when you face panic disorder, it can interfere with your day-to-day life. Panic attacks are scary and sometimes debilitating. They can make you feel like you’re stuck with no way out. Fortunately, there is a way out and you can overcome your disorder. At Alter Behavioral Health, we specialize in anxiety-related disorders and our passion is helping people find their joy again. You are a shining star and we care so much for you. Let us help you face your panic head-on and live the life you were destined for. Happiness is right around the corner and with our help, you can achieve it. Call us today at (866) 691-4386 to get started.