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Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. Other types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Panic disorder affects women twice as often as men.
Panic attacks are the most common symptom of this disorder. A person is having a panic attack when they feel:
- A sense of terror that strikes suddenly and repeatedly with no warning
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Flushes or chills
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
Because these attacks are so unpredictable, many women may have intense anxiety between panic attacks. While most attacks last a few minutes on average, sometimes they can last as long as 10 minutes. In rare cases, they may last an hour or more.
If you think you have an anxiety disorder such as panic disorder, the first person you should see is your family doctor. A physician can determine whether the symptoms that alarm you are due to an anxiety disorder, another medical condition, or both.
Early treatment can help keep the disease from getting worse, and people can learn effective ways to live with this disorder. Treatment options include:
- Cognitive therapy (to change or get rid of destructive thought patterns)
- Behavioral therapy (to change a person's behavior)
- A combination of these treatments
Explore other publications and websites
Mental Health Services Locator — This website will help you locate mental health treatment facilities and support services in your state.
Panic Attacks, Panic Disorder, and Agoraphobia (Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians) — This online resource provides information on panic disorders, including what will happen during an attack and things you can do to relieve an attack.
Panic Disorder — This publication provides information about panic disorders, including what they are, how they are treated, and examples of co-existing conditions.
Panic Disorder & Agoraphobia (Copyright © Anxiety Disorders Association of America) — This web page describes panic attack and its link to agoraphobia. There are a number of links to personal stories of people with panic disorder and how they have overcome their panic attacks.
Panic Disorder (Copyright © American Psychiatric Association) — This fact sheet explains the symptoms of panic attacks and offers advice about how to talk to your doctor. It also discusses the benefits of cognitive-behavioral therapy and how you can overcome panic disorder.
Panic Disorder (Copyright © Mental Health America) — This fact sheet provides an overview of panic disorder, its symptoms, and possible treatment methods.
Screening for Panic Disorder (Copyright © Anxiety Disorders Association of America) — Take this test to see if you might have panic disorder. Your results can help your doctor decide if you have panic disorder.
When Fear Overwhelms: Panic Disorder — This easy-to-read publication describes all the important information about panic disorder. It includes information about paying for treatment, as well as a personal story from someone who has panic disorder.
Connect with other organizations
American Psychological Association
Anxiety Disorders Association of America
Freedom From Fear
Mental Health America
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, HHS
National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse
Content last updated March 29, 2010.
Resources last updated March 29, 2010.
A federal government website managed by the Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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