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Panic Disorder


  • Panic disorder, or PD, is a type of anxiety disorder. It is a condition where you have sudden panic attacks that occur again and again. A panic attack is a period of strong fear or discomfort. Panic attacks may also include symptoms such as trouble breathing, chest pain, and pounding or fast heartbeat. You may also feel like you are choking, and be dizzy or light-headed. You may fear that you are losing control of yourself. Panic disorder may come and go, and may last a long time.
  • The panic attacks in PD cause you to worry about what may happen because of the attack. You may try to change your behavior or way of life to stop another attack. The panic attacks may make you scared to be in the same place, or do the same thing where attacks have happened before. This is called agoraphobia. In PD with agoraphobia, you avoid doing things or being in places in case an attack occurs. You fear being in places where it may be hard to get away or find help during an attack.
  • Tests may be done to see if your symptoms are caused by a medical condition. Your caregiver will use a guide to learn if you have agoraphobia with your PD. Therapy and medicines, such as tranquilizers and anti-anxiety medicine, are used to treat PD. With treatment, your anxiety (worry) may decrease, and your panic symptoms may go away.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


  • Medicines used to treat PD may take a few weeks to work. Some medicines make you worry more when you start using them. You may also feel shaky, dizzy, have trouble sleeping, or sexual problems because of the medicines.
  • If PD is left untreated, you may become depressed (feel deep sadness) or start to abuse alcohol or drugs. PD causes so much worry, you may go to the doctor more then you need to. This may cause problems with school or work. With PD, you may even have thoughts of killing yourself. Treatment may help decrease your worry and how often you have attacks. Ask your caregiver if you have questions or concerns about your treatment for PD.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Psychiatric assessment:

Caregivers will ask if you have a history of psychological trauma, such as physical, sexual, or mental abuse. They will ask if you were given the care that you needed. Caregivers will ask you if you have been a victim of a crime or natural disaster, or if you have a serious injury or disease. They will ask you if you have seen other people being harmed, such as in combat. You will be asked if you drink alcohol or use drugs at present or in the past. Caregivers will ask you if you want to hurt or kill yourself or others. How you answer these questions can help caregivers decide on treatment. To help during treatment, caregivers will ask you about such things as how you feel about it and your hobbies and goals. Caregivers will also ask you about the people in your life who support you.


  • Antianxiety medicine: This medicine may be given to decrease anxiety and help you feel calm and relaxed.
  • Anti-depressants: These medicines are given to decrease or stop the symptoms of depression. Other behavior problems may also be treated with anti-depressants.
  • Tranquilizers: These medicines may be given to help you stay calm and relaxed.

Treatment options:

You may have counseling (talk therapy) to treat PD. A family member or friend may also help in treating your PD. Any of the following therapies may be used:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: With a caregiver, you will learn to face the things that you fear slowly and carefully. You will also learn to control how you think and act when you are afraid.
  • Cognitive restructuring: Caregivers help you find out which thoughts make you nervous. These thoughts are then replaced with calming thoughts.
  • Exposure therapy: Exposure or desensitization therapy helps you face a feared object, person, or situation. Fantasy (not real) or real-life situations are used with this therapy. The goal of desensitization therapy is to help decrease your fear or anxiety.
  • Relaxation therapy: Stress may cause pain, lead to illness, and slow healing. Relaxation therapy teaches you how to feel less physical and emotional stress. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and music are some forms of relaxation therapy.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.