What are the Signs of Panic Disorder?

Soo Owens

Panic disorders are marked by violent, incapacitating lapses in rational thought and emotion called panic attacks. One of the most recognizable signs of panic disorder is the repeated onset of a panic attack. Symptoms of a panic attack can vary in severity and duration, but frequent attacks point to signs of panic disorder that can significantly disrupt an individual's day-to-day life.

Heart palpitations and difficult breathing are signs of a panic attack.
Heart palpitations and difficult breathing are signs of a panic attack.

Extreme, pervasive emotions characterize panic disorder. Individuals with panic disorder also experience symptoms that affect their composure and behavior. Recurring panic attacks are one of the clearest signs of panic disorder, in some cases causing a persistent change in behavior because of the fear of experiencing another panic attack.

Nausea can be a sign of panic disorder.
Nausea can be a sign of panic disorder.

Panic attacks affect an individual's emotional and physical stability. Extreme fear and terror, often focused on the fear of dying, are the most common emotions associated with panic attacks. Panic attacks that are related to panic disorders are evidenced by prolonged periods of anxiety. The intensity of these emotional responses are accompanied by physical reactions that can be debilitating. These signs of panic disorder often occur suddenly and without explanation, further hindering an individual's ability to carry out normal, daily routines.

Hyperventilation and excessive sweating could be signs of a panic attack.
Hyperventilation and excessive sweating could be signs of a panic attack.

The physical symptoms of panic disorders as indicated by panic attacks are often outwardly visible — bouts of sweating, chills, and nausea. Is it not uncommon for the sufferer to feel his heart race, have heart palpitations, and experience difficulty breathing, which can exacerbate the fear and anxiety. First time sufferers commonly mistake the severity of the symptoms for a heart attack or some other unrelated physical illness. The combined emotional and physical toil that sufferers endure can result in a persistent cycle of fear and seclusion. The duration of a panic attack is generally short and can vary from a few minutes to a couple of hours, but even when the initial attack has mostly subsided, some symptoms may continue to persist.

Panic attacks are sudden, debilitating bouts of intense fear.
Panic attacks are sudden, debilitating bouts of intense fear.

Signs of panic disorder are present in nearly six million people in the United States with women twice as likely to be affected as men. Because panic attacks often appear without warning, people with a tendency towards repeated attacks come to fear the very idea of it happening, which then triggers episodes often referred to as anticipatory attacks. This fear can ultimately lead to a need to avoid locations that may provoke an attack. Lack of proper treatment can eventually cause complete aversion to any public setting or open space, as is the case with nearly one-third of panic disorder patients.

Overcoming panic disorder generally takes time.
Overcoming panic disorder generally takes time.

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