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 Health Info A-Z

 

Panic Disorder

 
 

 What is it?

 

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia) involves “repeated, unexpected panic attacks (e.g., heart palpitations, sweating, trembling) followed by at least one month of persistent concern about having another panic attack.”

Panic attacks may be accompanied by agoraphobia, which involves avoiding or enduring with marked distress specific situations, such as being outside the home alone, being in a crowd or standing in a line in public.

Adapted from Anxiety Disorders: An Information Guide © 2009 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

 

 Symptoms

 

Signs & symptoms of Panic Disorder

Cognitive symptoms include thoughts such as:

  • “I’m having a heart attack.”
  • "I’m suffocating.”


Physical symptoms include:

  • accelerated heart rate
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • dizziness or nausea
  • trembling or shaking
  • shortness of breath.


Behavioural signs include:

  • avoiding places where the person had anxiety symptoms in the past (e.g., a certain grocery store) or similar places (e.g., all grocery stores)
  • avoiding travel, malls, line-ups
  • avoiding strenuous activities (e.g., exercise).

 

Causes & risk factors

It is not known exactly why some people develop a panic disorder, although research suggests that various factors may be involved. Like most mental health problems, panic disorders appear to be caused by a combination of biological and psychological factors and challenging life experiences, including:

  • stressful or traumatic life events
  • a family history of panic disorder
  • other medical or psychiatric problems.


Adapted from Anxiety Disorders: An Information Guide © 2009 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

 

 Therapies

 

Treatment for Panic Disorder

Many psychological treatments, such as relaxation training, meditation, biofeedback and stress management, can help with panic disorders. Many people with panic disorders also benefit from supportive counselling or family therapy. However, experts agree that the most effective form of treatment for panic disorders is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Medications have also been proven effective, and many people receive CBT and medication in combination.

Adapted from Anxiety Disorders: An Information Guide © 2009 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

 

 Finding Help

 

Finding Help, Treatment and Support

Treatment from CAMH 

Help for Families from CAMH

Ontario Mental Health Helpline (open 24/7 for treatment anywhere in Ontario)​​

 

 Resources

 
CAMH Switchboard 416-535-8501
CAMH General Information Toronto: 416-595-6111 Toll Free: 1-800-463-6273
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