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Signs & Symptoms of a Panic Disorder

by Meg Louis
  • Overview

    According to the American Psychological Association (APA), one out of every 75 people is affected by panic disorder. People with panic disorder can lead normal lives with appropriate treatment, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of this disorder.
  • Panic Attacks

    The primary symptom of panic disorder is recurrent unexpected panic attacks. The APA defines a panic attack as a sudden experience of overwhelming fear for no apparent reason, accompanied by physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, difficulty breathing, chest pain, nausea, dizziness and trembling.
  • Fear of Additional Attacks

    The essential feature of panic disorder is a persistent fear of having another panic attack, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
  • Significant Change in Behavior

    Fear of having additional panic attacks may lead to avoidant behavior, NIMH says, such as avoiding public situations where having a panic attack may create a hardship.
  • Concern About Implications of the Attack

    Another key characteristic of panic disorder is concern about the implications of the repeated attacks, NIMH reports. For example, a person with panic disorder may fear he is "going crazy" or losing control. He might also fear he is having a heart attack or seizure, and may seek medical attention for those reasons.
  • Possible Side Effects

    Untreated panic disorder may lead to other symptoms and disorders, the APA says, such as specific phobias, depression, alcoholism and drug abuse.

    References & Resources