Panic disorder an anxiety disorder in which patients experience recurring and unexpected panic attacks, characterized by feelings of intense fear or discomfort that usually last for a few minutes. The cause of panic disorder is unknown and those with the condition may experience a panic attack for no obvious reason. It is more prevalent among women, but as many as six million people across the United States live with a panic disorder.
Symptoms often first manifest in teenage years or as a young adult. Panic attacks typically last for up to 20 minutes, but in severe cases may continue for up to an hour. During a panic attack, symptoms experienced may include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, vertigo, nausea, sweating, chills, shaking, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, chest pain, and fear.
Panic disorder is a chronic condition with varying degrees of severity. However, treatment can help alleviate many of the symptoms. Counselling, talk therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise, improving sleep patterns, and avoiding stimulants, are often recommended by physicians. Drug classes commonly prescribed are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants, SSRIs, anxiolytics, benzodiazepines, and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor antidepressants, SNRIs.