Panic Attacks & Panic Disorder

A panic attack is a brief period of extreme distress, anxiety, or fear that begins suddenly and is accompanied by physical and/or emotional symptoms.

Panic disorder involves recurrent panic attacks that lead to excessive worry about future attacks and/or behaviour changes intended to avoid situations that might trigger an attack.

Panic attacks can cause such symptoms as chest pain, a sensation of choking, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath.

Medical professionals base the diagnosis on the individual’s description of attacks and fears of future attacks.

Treatment may include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, exposure therapy, and psychotherapy.

Panic attacks may occur as part of any anxiety disorder.

Panic attacks may also occur in individuals with other psychiatric disorders (such as depression).

Some panic attacks occur in response to a specific situation. For example, an individual with a phobia of snakes may panic when encountering a snake. Other attacks occur without any apparent trigger.

Panic attacks are common, occurring in at least 11% of adults each year.

Most individuals recover from panic attacks without treatment, but a few develop panic disorder.

Panic disorder is when individuals worry that they will have more panic attacks and/or change their behaviour to try to avoid attacks.

Panic disorder is present in 2 to 3% of the population during any 12-month period.

Women are about 2 times more likely than men to have panic disorder.

Panic disorder usually begins in late adolescence or early adulthood.

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