What is panic disorder?
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by sudden unexplained feelings of anxiety that quickly escalate into terror. Individuals experiencing panic attack episodes might feel shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, heart palpitations and sweaty or clammy skin.
Although panic attacks can be triggered by specific circumstances like crowds or enclosed spaces, they can also appear to happen out of the blue, for no identifiable reason.
What are the symptoms?
Different individuals can experience panic attacks in different ways, but the most common symptoms include the following:
- Nervousness and restlessness
- An increased heart rate or the feeling of having a pounding heart
- Insomnia and/or tiredness
- Inability to concentrate on work or school
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Sweating or clammy skin
- Intense worry that does not ease
Am I at risk of experiencing panic attacks?
Although we do not fully understand the causes of panic disorder and other anxiety disorders, the following factors are likely to be potential triggers:
- A genetic predisposition to elevated anxiety, or family members who experience panic attacks
- Underlying medical problems, such as diabetes, heart disease and addictions
- Tumours that can produce “fight or flight” hormones
- Medications that produce anxiety as a side effect
- A history of trauma, either witnessed or experienced
- Stress resulting from illness or major life events
- The presence of other mental illnesses such as depression