Panic disorder is a common, chronic illness associated with considerable suffering and social cost. Although panic symptoms have been well described for over a century, only in the past decade has it has become widely recognized as a distinct psychiatric illness. People with panic disorder can feel frightened, distressed and uneasy for no apparent reason. Left untreated, panic disorder can dramatically reduce productivity and significantly diminish an individual's quality of life. Fortunately, 60-80% of panic disorders can be effectively treated.
Imagine yourself sitting at home comfortably watching TV All of a sudden, with no apparent provocation or cause, you get a horrible sensation of dread. Your heart begins to race, and you don't know why. You think that you are having a heart attack. You start sweating. You have trouble catching your breath, feel dizzy, and are frightened to death. You feel as if you need air. You feel as if you need to move around and to do something/anything to stop these terrible feelings. You try to calm yourself, with no success. You are rushed to the hospital. But, by the time you get to the emergency room, your symptoms have disappeared. This is a typical example of a panic attack, suffered by more than 3 million people in the United States.
In panic disorder, brief episodes of intense fear are accompanied by multiple physical symptoms such as heart palpitations and dizziness that occur repeatedly and unexpectedly in the absence of any external threat. These "panic attacks" are believed to occur when the brain's normal mechanism for reacting to a threat--the so-called "fight or flight" response--becomes inappropriately aroused.
Victims of panic disorder frequently worry about the possibility of having another panic attack. They
often avoid situations in which they believe these attacks are likely to occur. Anxiety about another attack, and the avoidance it causes, can lead to disability in panic disorder.