The main features of Panic Disorder are unexpected Panic Attacks for at least 1 month with at least one of the following: a tendency to be preoccupied with the attacks or concern about having more attacks, fears that the attacks may mean the person has a serious medical condition or is going insane, or a change of behavior due to the attacks. These rushes of fear, which seem to come out of the blue, are associated with a number of intense physical symptoms and may include a sense of impending doom.

Panic Attacks include a rush of fear or discomfort that peaks within 10 minutes and includes at least 4 of the following symptoms: increased or pounding heart rate, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, feelings of choking, chest discomfort, nausea or abdominal distress, dizziness, faintness, being lightheaded, feelings of unreality, fear of going crazy or losing control, fear of dying, numbness or tingling, or chills and hot flashes. You do not need to have all of these symptoms to have a panic attack.

Initially, before the diagnosis of Panic Disorder, people often believe they have a medical condition, usually of a catastrophic nature, like a heart attack or stroke. Sufferers may also believe they are losing their mind or going insane (which they are not).

Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia usually do not go away without treatment and can persist throughout a person’s life.

There are special types of Panic Attacks that some people have including nocturnal panic, non-fearful panic, relaxation induced panic, and non-clinical panic.

Panic Disorder often involves pockets of avoidance and safety behaviors (see below) and if left untreated can develop into Agoraphobia.

The most common time to develop Panic Disorder is in young adulthood but people can develop it at any point in life.

Up to 11.5 million Americans will develop Panic Disorder in their lifetime.

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