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Panic disorder

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.

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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:

  • Medications
  • Cognitive therapy (to change or get rid of destructive thought patterns)
  • Behavioral therapy (to change a person's behavior)
  • A combination of these treatments

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Content last updated: March 29, 2010.

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