Panic Disorders

Panic Disorders Diagnosis and Treatment

Learn about the different types, causes, symptoms, and treatment methods for panic disorders.

Table of Contents

What Are Panic Disorders?

Panic disorders are a type of anxiety disorder that cause intense feelings of fear and panic attacks, affecting one’s everyday life. While panic and fear are natural when responding to stressful or dangerous situations, those with panic disorder experience these feelings in safe situations and on a more severe level. These disorders have the potential to disturb an individual’s quality of life, and it’s important to recognize the symptoms so that we can best administer treatment.

Are There Different Types of Panic Disorders?

Panic disorders can be classified into several types based on the symptoms and their severity. Some types of panic disorders deal only with a single panic attack as the symptom, while other types may include symptoms of other mental disorders, such as   generalized anxiety disorder or depression.1

How Long Do Panic Attacks Last?

The length of a panic attack can vary based on the severity of the disorder. For some, a single panic attack may only last for a few minutes. For others, panic attacks can last as long as one hour.2 In addition, the frequency of panic attacks vary, ranging anywhere from once every few months to several in one week.

The length of panic attacks can result in a debilitating disorder that inhibits day-to-day living and greatly reduces one’s quality of life. For those with more severe symptoms, it can be difficult to complete necessary tasks and chores relevant in everyday life, especially when their panic attacks result from specific triggers, such as social situations. 

Panic Disorders Causes and Risk Factors

Before learning about the diagnosis and treatment processes for panic disorders, it’s important to understand the disorder’s triggers, risk factors, and causes.

Like many other mental disorders, panic disorders can be caused by a combination of factors, including genetics and brain chemistry.

What Triggers a Panic Disorder?

While the most common triggers for panic disorders include new situations or social events, more subtle triggers can cause panic attacks. For example, activities that increase the heart rate, such as exercise that results in breathlessness or drinking excessive caffeine. Also, panic itself can be a trigger, leading to a severe attack.3 As a result, it can be much more difficult to avoid triggers for panic disorder than some other conditions.

Risk Factors

Compared to other anxiety disorders, there are significantly more risk factors for panic disorders. This is because there are both emotional and physical triggers.4

Panic disorder risk factors may include:

  • Family history of mental disorders, such as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, or depression
  • Personal history of abuse during childhood
  • Smoking
  • Respiratory problems or conditions, such as asthma
  • High sensitivity to stressful situations
  • Presence of significant stress


If left untreated, the effects of panic disorders can be disruptive and debilitating for many people. For example, it is common for individuals with this disorder to develop fears and phobias about certain situations that may result in a panic attack.

Many other complications can occur, such as developing a substance use disorder or another mental health disorder (especially depression) and problems with relationships in their personal life, school, or work.

Panic Disorders Symptoms and Signs

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Panic disorders can develop in various ways, with symptoms similar to other anxiety disorders. Symptoms are effects of a disorder or condition that are not measurable by other people, such as pain. One of the first steps to diagnosis is recognizing and identifying some of the major symptoms of a panic disorder.

Physical and Psychological Symptoms

Some of the most common panic disorder symptoms are:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Shakiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Tingly or numb hands or feet
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea

Behavioral Symptoms

Behavioral symptoms can manifest over time in individuals with panic disorder. Often, these symptoms occur as a result of repeated trauma that may happen with panic disorders and can include:

  • Changes in personality
  • Increased isolation
  • Avoidance of certain areas or events

When dealing with a child or teenager with a possible panic disorder, doctors may often interview family to learn more about behavioral symptoms at home.

How Is Panic Disorder Diagnosed?

Panic disorders are diagnosed by a mental health professional familiar with the criteria for these types of anxiety disorders. They will utilize tests, assess criteria and circumstance, and conduct conversations with the patients to understand their symptoms and rule out other physical or mental conditions that may be causing them.

How to Treat a Panic Disorder?

Panic disorders cannot be cured; however, they can be treated by recognizing and managing the symptoms. This helps restore people’s quality of life and creates safer environments for those who may put themselves in harm’s way during a panic attack.


There are several types of psychotherapy available to help treat panic disorders. Options like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help create a better sense of mindfulness and awareness in the brain, which can help cope with the emotional triggers of a panic disorder.

Medications for Panic Disorders

Psychotherapy may not treat the physical triggers for panic disorders, such as breathlessness and increased heart rate. Therefore, medication can be prescribed to individuals to prevent and reduce the likelihood of complications by targeting areas of the disorder that psychotherapy may not necessarily help. Allowing a medical professional to consider the individual’s environment and triggers and prescribe customized medication is a great option for many.

Get Treatment for Panic and Anxiety Disorders at J. Flowers Health Institute

Panic disorder treatment can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Though many people identify with the feelings associated with anxiety and panic disorders, these symptoms can be addressed and abetted. You are more than your diagnosis. At J. Flowers Health Institute, our highly trained staff is prepared to help and guide each patient through their treatment journey. Contact J. Flowers today to learn more about our treatment options and how we can get you on the path to a better quality of life. We look forward to hearing from you.