Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous, seemingly out-of-the-blue, panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even during sleep.

Experiencing a panic attack doesn’t necessarily mean you have panic disorder. Panic disorder is characterised by repeated and unexpected panic attacks that severely disrupt your life. Suffering from a panic disorder may involve worrying about future panic attacks and changing your behaviour as a result, such as avoiding places or situations where panic attacks have previously occurred.

A panic attack is an intense rush of fear or anxiety that reaches a peak within a few minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms:

  • a feeling of imminent danger or doom
  • the need to escape
  • heart palpitations
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • shortness of breath or a smothering feeling
  • a feeling of choking
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • nausea or abdominal discomfort
  • dizziness or light headedness
  • a sense of things being unreal, depersonalization
  • a fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • a fear of dying
  • tingling sensation
  • chills or heat flush

Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia

Panic disorder can lead to agoraphobia when people stop going into situations or places in which they’ve previously had a panic attack in anticipation of it happening again. People typically avoid public places where they feel immediate escape might be difficult, such as shopping centres, cinemas, theatres and public transport.