What is panic disorder?
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder marked by repeated panic attacks - sudden, unexplained episodes of fear, worry, and a flurry of physical stress responses. In addition to panic attacks, a person with panic disorder also endures ongoing worry and fear of having additional panic attacks. This anxiety can lead to avoidance of panic-inducing situations.

What are the symptoms of panic disorder?
The most significant symptoms of this disorder are the symptoms of panic attack - and the fear of those attacks. Panic attack symptoms are similar to our body's normal responses to dangers and threats, like increased heart rate, sweating, or shortness of breath. But in panic attacks, there is no actual threat to justify the response. Learn more about common panic attack symptoms.

What are the causes and risk factors of panic disorder?
A cause of panic disorder has not been conclusively proven, though genetics may affect your risk. Women and those in their 20s or 30s may be at higher risk, but panic disorder can happen to anyone at any age and can come out of nowhere or following a traumatic or stressful life event.

How is panic disorder diagnosed?
If you're worried that you might have panic disorder, talk to your doctor about the symptoms you've experienced. Since feelings of panic and anxiety can accompany other conditions and illnesses, your doctor will likely perform a thorough examination to rule out other possible causes. You are more likely to be diagnosed with panic disorder if you:

  • have recurrent, sudden panic attacks
  • worry about having more attacks and what will happen if you do
  • change your behaviour and habits because of panic attacks

How can panic disorder be treated?
Your treatment goal for panic disorder should be to function better on a daily basis and reduce the occurrence of your symptoms. A treatment plan for panic disorder may include cognitive-behavioural therapy, medications, or a combination of therapy and medications. And while healthy lifestyle habits and social support may not cure a panic disorder, they can help you to manage your symptoms. Learn more about your anxiety treatment options.