Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is quite common. Every year, close to six million Americans experience panic disorder. Panic attacks often begin in childhood or early adolescence, although panic disorder tends to set in during late adolescence or early adulthood. Girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer from panic disorder.

What Is Panic Disorder?

A manifestation of the fight-or-flight response, panic disorder is characterized by a fear of disaster or of losing control, even when there is no apparent danger. A panic disorder definition includes the ongoing experience of recurrent panic attacks. People with panic disorder have sudden and often unexpected periods of intense fear.

These panic attack symptoms are not caused by obvious fear triggers, such as boarding a plane when you’re profoundly afraid of flying. Rather, panic attacks often seem to come out of nowhere. Sometimes, panic disorder can be triggered by an anticipatory anxiety or the fear of having another panic attack. The symptoms of panic disorder may include rapid chest palpitations, accelerated heart rate, sweating, shaking, nausea, chills, dizziness, and breathing problems.

Panic disorder often runs in families. Teens with a family history of panic attacks are more susceptible to panic disorder. Panic disorder can be treated with therapy, although sometimes medication may be temporarily used to provide relief. Such relief allows time and space for the process of talk therapy to work.

Sources: National Institute of Mental Health, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, TeenMentalHealth.org

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