Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder experience recurrent and sudden periods of intense fear. These bouts are accompanied by physical effects that can be troubling or disabling.

Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even during sleep. Types of panic disorders include general anxiety disorder (GAD), phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety. GAD and specific phobias are more prevalent among women, with panic disorder affecting women twice as often as men. Panic disorders can also develop as a result of, or in addition to, other illnesses such as depression and drug addiction.

Signs & Symptoms

People experiencing a panic attack may feel:

  • A sense of terror that strikes suddenly and repeatedly with no warning
  • Chest pain or a pounding heart
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating, trembling or shaking
  • Flushes or chills
  • Fear of losing control or impending doom
  • Fear of dying
  • A smothering or choking

Tips & Recommendations

Anxiety disorders are treatable, but can be complicated if you are suffering with more than one anxiety disorder or depression, substance abuse, or other co-existing conditions. For this reason, treatment must be tailored to each unique individual. Treatment may include therapy, medication or a combination of both. The vast majority of people with an anxiety disorder can be helped with professional care. Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTS) can help you manage your feelings and cope with your panic attacks.

Additional Resources

ADAA: Panic Disorder & Agoraphobia

NIMH: Panic Disorder & Fear

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Patricia Sturdy Goldsmith, PhD
Patricia Sturdy Goldsmith, PHD

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Los Angeles, CA

Patricia Sturdy Goldsmith, MBA, PhD, works from psychodynamic, intersubjective and family systems perspectives to assist clients feel cohesive and vitalized. Dr. Goldsmith works effectively with complex trauma, abuse, and stress issues creating the clinical issues of PTSD, dissociative disorders, anxiety and major depression.


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