An anxiety disorder characterised by sudden attacks of panic or fear
People sufferring from panic disorder typically experience feelings of anxiety, stress and panic at the same time, on a regular basis. This may be for no apparent reason.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. Feelings of anxiety typically include feelings of worry and fear. These feelings can range from mild to severe.
People experiencing these feelings may start to avoid certain situations out of fear that being in those situations will result in another attack.
This tends to create a cycle of living “in fear of fear”, and can add to one’s sense of panic, thus resulting in further attacks (NHS, 2020).
Panic attacks can be very frightening and distressing for the person going through them.
They are characterised by “a rush of intense mental and physical symptoms” (NHS, 2020). These symptoms can come on rapidly and for no apparent reason.
They usually last between 5 and 20 minutes, but can last longer - even up to an hour.
The frequency of attacks depends on the severity of one’s condition. The frequency can range from 1 or 2 times a month to several times a week.
Panic attack symptoms
- racing heartbeat
- feeling faint
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- hot flushes
- shaky limbs
- a choking sensation
- numbness or pins and needles
- a need to go to the toilet
- ringing in your ears
- a feeling of dread or a fear of dying
- a tingling in your fingers
- feeling like you’re not connected to your body
According to the NHS (2020), these symptoms can also occur as part of other conditions or problems, so having some of these symptoms does not always indicate a panic attack. For example, you may have a racing heartbeat if you have very low blood pressure.
You should see a GP if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of panic disorder. They may ask you to describe your symptoms as well as the frequency and history of them. They may also carry out a physical examination. Based on the information they gather, they may diagnose you with panic disorder.
The main treatments for panic disorder are talking therapies/counselling and medicine.
NHS, 2020. Panic disorder. [online] nhs.uk. Available at: