Panic disorder

Panic disorder is a disabling mental condition in which a person has repeated, unexpected panic attacks and constantly worries about having another. Panic disorder, which usually starts in late adolescence or early adulthood and may last a lifetime, can interfere with work and social relationships if it is not treated.

Panic attacks have frightening but not life-threatening symptoms such as rapid breathing (hyperventilation) and a pounding heart. Often a person having a panic attack feels that he or she is losing control or dying. The strength of a panic attack usually peaks within 10 minutes, and most symptoms fade within 30 minutes.

Panic disorder can be treated with counseling and medications to help minimize or eliminate panic attacks and decrease the anxiety that accompanies the fear of future attacks. Early diagnosis and treatment of panic attacks can prevent other conditions associated with panic disorder, such as depression or substance abuse.

Last Updated: September 16, 2008

Author: Jeannette Curtis

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry

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