Mental Disorders


Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder: Understanding Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Panic Disorder: Understanding Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Panic disorder triggers intense anxiety that can feel like a heart attack, causing undeniable disruptions in daily life. Psychotherapy, and oftentimes medication, is crucial for managing these unpredictable symptoms. Learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for panic disorder, and contact The Edge Treatment Center if you or someone you love requires professional support.

What Is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is a mental health condition and anxiety disorder characterized by frequent and unexpected panic attacks. These episodes involve a sudden feeling of intense fear that trigger physical symptoms. Panic attacks can be overwhelming, often leading to shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, and dizziness. Individuals experiencing panic attacks may feel like they are losing control, or even having a heart attack.

Other mental health conditions under the same subset include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and OCD, all of which share certain symptoms.

Hands on Head from Panic Disorder

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

Panic disorder carries a range of psychological and physical symptoms, from a feeling of intense fear to a racing heart rate that can cause trembling and excessive sweating. Here’s an overview of the symptoms people with panic disorder often face:

Psychological Symptoms

Individuals experiencing unexpected panic attacks may feel out of control, with a profound fear of death or an impending sense of doom during the attack. The intense fear about when the next attack will strike can be overwhelming. Panic disorder can manifest as a sense of detachment from reality or a fear of losing control, heightening feelings of anxiety and distress. These psychological symptoms can significantly impact daily functioning.

Physical Symptoms

During a panic attack, individuals may encounter various physical symptoms such as trembling, rapid heart rate, sweating, and difficulty breathing. The experience can also include chest pain, stomach discomfort, and nausea. The physical manifestations of panic attacks can range in severity and frequency, with some individuals experiencing them several times a day while others may have them only a few times a year.

Impact on Daily Life

Panic disorder has a profound impact on daily life by prompting individuals to avoid places where previous panic attacks have occurred. The fear of having another attack can result in work problems, social interactions, and relationships. The constant worry about experiencing another panic attack can lead to disturbances in sleep patterns, affecting overall quality of life. Individuals with panic disorder often struggle to cope with the unpredictability and intensity of their symptoms.

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How Is Panic Disorder Treated?

Panic disorder is primarily treated with a combination of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and medication. Treatment centers specializing in mental health also provide comprehensive care in a structured setting. Let’s dive deeper into these treatment avenues:


Psychotherapy, such as CBT, is a common treatment for panic disorder and conducted by a mental health professional. CBT focuses on teaching individuals new ways of thinking and behaving when faced with unexpected panic attacks. Exposure therapy, a specific CBT method, involves gradually confronting fears related to panic disorder, helping patients gain control over their symptoms.


Medicine serves as another treatment option for panic disorder, often used alongside psychotherapy. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are commonly prescribed to manage panic disorder symptoms, including physical symptoms and intense fear. These medications work to reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks, though they may have side effects that should be monitored by a doctor.

Treatment Centers

Seeking treatment at specialized centers is crucial for individuals with panic disorder. These centers provide comprehensive care from mental health professionals in a supportive environment. Services offered include psychotherapy sessions, medication management, and participation in support groups.

What Causes Panic Disorder?

Panic Disorder patient holding chest

Panic disorder can result from a mix of genetics, long-held stress, and triggers such as overbreathing or consuming too much caffeine. Let’s explore these causes further:


Panic disorder can be hereditary, with a tendency to run in families, indicating a genetic influence. Some individuals may inherit a predisposition to developing panic disorder, as family members may have varying susceptibilities, pointing towards complex genetic interactions. Researchers are ongoing to unravel the genetic factors contributing to this condition, but it’s been found that specific brain regions and biological processes are implicated in fostering fear and anxiety among individuals grappling with panic disorder.

Major Stress

Significant stressors and life events can act as catalysts for panic disorder onset. Environmental triggers coupled with high-stress situations can induce panic attacks in individuals prone to the condition. Managing stress effectively through healthy coping strategies is crucial for combating panic disorder. Stress and environmental factors play pivotal roles in provoking panic attacks, especially in those with a genetic predisposition. It’s essential to adopt stress-reducing techniques and lifestyle modifications to alleviate symptoms of panic disorder.


Common triggers of panic disorder can include overbreathing, which can lead to hyperventilation and trigger panic attacks. Long periods of stress can also contribute to the development of panic disorder, as the constant pressure can overwhelm the individual and lead to heightened anxiety levels. Activities that result in intense physical reactions, such as consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, can also act as triggers for panic attacks. Additionally, physical changes after illness or a sudden change in environment can disrupt the body's equilibrium and contribute to the onset of panic disorder symptoms.

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Can Panic Disorder Be Cured?

While panic disorder is not typically “cured,” many people recover significantly and can manage the condition effectively with various treatments and strategies. It may be a chronic condition, but individuals can experience significant relief from symptoms with the right approach.

Panic Disorder Prevalence Rates

Panic disorder isn’t very common, but it’s not exactly rare either, and can affect individuals of all age ranges. It also poses a far higher likelihood of developing in women than in men. Here’s a summary of the prevalence rates, age distribution, and gender disparity of panic disorder:

General Population

Panic disorder is more common than you might think, affecting 2-3% of the general population. This means that out of every 100 individuals, 2 to 3 will experience panic disorder at some point in their lives.

Age Distribution

Individuals of all ages can be impacted by panic disorder, but it typically begins in late teens or early adulthood. This crucial period marks a time when many are transitioning into independence and facing new challenges.

Gender Disparity

When it comes to gender differences, statistics show that women are twice as likely as men to develop panic disorder. This higher prevalence among women could be attributed to various factors such as hormonal differences or societal pressures.

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Seeking Therapy & Treatment

Panic Disorder Therapy Session

Early intervention for panic disorder is key for a full recovery, and should be conducted by a mental health professional or potentially a mental health-specialized treatment center like The Edge. Here’s a quick roadmap if you’re seeking therapy and treatment for panic disorder:

Early Intervention

Seeking therapy and treatment for panic disorder, especially during early adulthood or in the late teens, is crucial. Early intervention can significantly impact managing symptoms and improving overall quality of life. It’s essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of panic disorder early on to prevent escalation. The sooner individuals seek medical help, the better the outcomes in terms of symptom management and daily functioning.

Mental Health Professionals

Consulting mental health professionals such as therapists or psychologists is vital for effective treatment. These experts offer specialized support tailored to each individual’s needs. Therapy sessions provide a safe space for individuals to explore their thoughts, feelings, and triggers associated with panic attacks. Through various therapeutic techniques, individuals learn coping strategies to manage anxiety effectively.

Support Systems

Having a strong support system can also aid in the treatment process. Family members, friends, or support groups can offer emotional support and encouragement throughout the journey of managing panic disorder. Engaging in group therapy sessions or peer support groups can create a sense of belonging and understanding among individuals facing similar challenges. Sharing experiences and coping mechanisms with others can be empowering and reassuring.

Closing Thoughts

Now that you understand panic disorder, its symptoms, treatment options, causes, and prevalence rates, you are equipped with valuable knowledge to recognize and address this condition. Remember, managing panic disorder involves seeking therapy and treatment when needed. Your well-being is crucial, so don't hesitate to reach out for help if you or someone you know is struggling with panic disorder. By taking proactive steps and seeking support, you can effectively manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Remember, your mental health matters. If you suspect you may have panic disorder or know someone who does, encourage seeking professional help. Together, we can break the stigma surrounding mental health and work towards a healthier, happier future.

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Learn How to Cope & Regulate Panic Attacks With The Edge Treatment Center

Panic disorder can easily disrupt your day-to-day, and we understand the firm grip panic disorder can have on your life — from the sudden onset of fear to the avoidance of places where attacks have struck before. At The Edge Treatment Center, our dedicated team is available to help, equipped with a range of effective therapies and a team of mental health professionals to lift the weight of these symptoms and adverse life impacts.

Learn more about the therapies we offer, and to reach out to us at The Edge Treatment Center if you or someone you love requires support in managing and overcoming panic disorder.

Treatment Modalities We Offer

Medication for Panic Disorder

At The Edge Treatment Center, we provide a suite of evidence-based therapies designed to help you navigate the challenges of panic disorder. Our treatment modalities include:

Case Management

Our case managers guide clients towards resources that support recovery from panic disorder, focusing on a holistic approach tailored to each individual’s unique circumstances and challenges.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy assists patients in reshaping negative thoughts and behaviors associated with panic disorder, aiming to reduce the frequency of panic attacks and promote a more balanced state of mind.


Dialectical Behavior Therapy supports those coping with the intense emotional fluctuations of panic disorder, fostering improved emotional regulation and positive life changes.


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing enables individuals to process and integrate traumatic memories that may contribute to their panic disorder, using eye movements to lessen emotional distress.

Experiential Therapy

Experiential therapy engages patients in activities that foster enjoyment and a renewed zest for life, addressing the underlying issues that may exacerbate panic disorder symptoms.

Family Counseling

Family counseling strengthens the recovery process by reinforcing family bonds and creating a supportive network essential for managing panic disorder.

Group Therapy

Group therapy provides a communal space for individuals to connect and support one another, enhancing recovery through shared experiences and collective strength.

Individual Therapy

Tailored therapy sessions concentrate on the distinct challenges each person faces with panic disorder, supporting their journey towards a life not defined by fear.


Medication-Assisted Treatment combines approved medications with therapeutic practices to effectively address panic disorder, easing symptoms and reducing the likelihood of recurrence.


Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, a non-invasive therapy, employs magnetic fields to activate specific areas of the brain, helping to alleviate the acute symptoms associated with panic disorder.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing encourages individuals to embrace positive life changes, such as managing panic disorder, by fostering a sense of personal achievement and motivation.

Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma-Informed Care recognizes the profound impact of trauma on panic disorder and offers a compassionate approach to support patients throughout their treatment, illuminating the role of trauma in psychological and emotional well-being.

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