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Panic Disorder

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is a real illness. It can be treated with medicine or therapy.

If you have panic disorder, you feel suddenly terrified for no reason. These frequent bursts of terror are called panic attacks. During a panic attack, you also have scary physical feelings like a fast heartbeat, trouble breathing, or dizziness.

Panic attacks can happen at any time and any place without warning. They often happen in grocery stores, malls, crowds, or while traveling.

You may live in constant fear of another attack and may stay away from places where you have had an attack. For some people, fear takes over their lives and they are unable to leave their homes.

Panic attacks don’t last long, but they are so scary they feel like they go on forever.

When does panic disorder start and how long does it last?

It usually starts when people are young adults, around 18 to 24 years old. Sometimes it starts when a person is under a lot of stress, for example after the death of a loved one or after having a baby.

Anyone can have panic disorder, but more women than men have the illness. It sometimes runs in families.

Panic disorder can last for a few months or for many years.

What can I do to help myself?

  • Talk to your doctor about your fear and panic attacks.
  • Tell your doctor if the panic attacks keep you from doing everyday things and living your life. It can help you explain how you feel. Ask your doctor for a checkup to make sure you don’t have some other illness.
  • Ask your doctor if he or she has helped other people with panic disorder.
    Special training helps doctors treat people with panic disorder. If your doctor doesn’t have special training, ask for the name of a doctor or counselor who does.
  • Get more information.
  • Call 1-866-615-6464 to have free information mailed to you.

What can a doctor or counselor do to help me?


The doctor may give you medicine. Medicine usually helps people with panic disorder feel better after a few weeks.

Talking to a specially trained doctor or counselor who can teach you ways to cope with your panic attacks helps many people with panic disorder. This is called “therapy.” Therapy will help you feel less afraid and anxious