Frequently Asked Questions

What is Panic Disorder?

People with panic disorder have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly. These experiences are called “panic attacks.” Because these attacks are unpredictable, many sufferers develop intense anxiety between episodes, worrying when and where the next attack will strike.
Attacks can occur anytime, even during sleep. While most attacks average a few minutes, they can last as long as 10 minutes and, in rare cases, for an hour or longer.

Please note: only a licensed and trained doctor, therapist or counselor can diagnose panic disorder. If you are suffering from any of the following symptoms, you should seek help immediately. Share your results with a doctor, therapist or counselor.

  • Are you troubled by unexpected “attacks” of intense fear or discomfort for no apparent reason? During such attacks, do you experience at least four of the following symptoms?
    • pounding heart
    • sweating
    • trembling or shaking
    • shortness of breath
    • choking
    • chest pain
    • nausea or abdominal discomfort
    • “jelly” legs
    • dizziness
    • a feeling of unreality or being detached from yourself
    • fear of losing control
    • fear of going crazy
    • fear of dying
    • numbness or tingling sensations
    • chills or hot flashes

  • Do you have a fear of places or situations where escape or getting help might be difficult, such as a crowded room or traffic jam?
  • Do you have a fear of being unable to travel without a companion?
  • For at least one month following an attack, have you felt persistent concern about having another attack and/or worry about going crazy?
  • Do you need to change your behavior to accommodate the attack?
  • Do you suffer from excessive worry about going crazy or losing control?
  • Have you had repeated visits to emergency rooms or doctor’s offices because of a fear of a heart attack or fear of going mad, only to find that you are healthy?
  • Do you frequently miss days from work, school and other obligations?
  • Do you experience depression, either before or after onset of panic attacks?
  • Do you feel embarrassed or ashamed because you feel powerless to the disorder?
  • Do you experience ongoing fatigue and low energy because of the toll the attacks take on the body and the mind? (Typically after a panic attack recedes, people’s muscles are tired from being tense and constricted, their cardiovascular system has been challenged, and they are mentally exhausted from the cognitive disturbances. The excessive worry, preoccupation with death, etc., drains the mind.)
    (source: The Anxiety Disorders Association of America)

If you answered “yes” to any of the previous questions, you should consult a physician right away.

Just talking about your problems sometimes leads to new solutions. If you or someone you know needs information, guidance or help, call our Respond program at 1-800-366-1132. Respond offers confidential, caring assessments and referrals for individuals dealing with problems related to mental health issues and substance abuse. If you or a loved one are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 immediately.