Mental Illness: Facts about Panic Disorders

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Facts about Panic Disorders

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

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Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a real illness that can be successfully treated. It is characterized by sudden attacks of terror, usually accompanied by a pounding heart, sweatiness, weakness, faintness, or dizziness. During these attacks, people with panic disorder may flush or feel chilled; their hands may tingle or feel numb; and they may experience nausea, chest pain, or smothering sensations. Panic attacks usually produce a sense of unreality, a fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control.

  • Panic disorder affects about 6 million American adults.
  • Panic disorder typically strikes in young adulthood. Roughly half of all people who have panic disorder develop the condition before age 24.
  • Many people have just one attack and never have another.
  • The tendency to develop panic attacks appears to be inherited.
  • Panic attacks can occur at any time, even during sleep.
  • An attack usually peaks within 10 minutes, but some symptoms may last much longer.
  • Women are twice as likely as men to develop panic disorder.
  • People with panic disorder may also suffer from depression and substance abuse.
  • About one-third of all people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia, an illness in which they become afraid of being in any place or situation where escape might be difficult or help unavailable in the event of a panic attack.

Panic disorder is one of the most treatable of all the anxiety disorders, responding in most cases to certain kinds of medication or certain kinds of cognitive psychotherapy, which help change thinking patterns that lead to fear and anxiety.

Mental illness at a glance:

Introduction | Depression | Bipolar Illness | Suicide | Schizophrenia | Anxiety Disorders | Panic Disorder | Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder | Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder | Social Phobia | Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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