What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is characterized by recurring, unexpected panic attacks over long periods of time. A panic attack is a sudden wave of intense fear coupled with physical reactions such as a rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a headache; these symptoms appear despite the fact that no real, immediate danger is present. Many people may experience an occasional panic attack, but people with panic disorder experience these attacks more frequently than normal.

There is no specific known cause for panic disorder, but multiple factors may increase your risk of developing it, including:

  • Genetics
  • Continuous or extreme stress
  • Traumatic life events
  • Major or dramatic life changes
  • Changes in brain activity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive caffeine intake

Although the symptoms that accompany a panic attack are alarming and intense, they are not typically harmful or life-threatening. However, this can be difficult to remember or recognize when you are actively experiencing one. Additionally, even the possibility of having a panic attack (particularly for people with panic disorder, for whom attacks are more likely to occur) can have a detrimental effect on your life, potentially causing you to avoid certain situations and activities where panic attacks seem more likely to occur.

If you have experienced a recent panic attack, you should get medical treatment as soon as possible to prevent future attacks; this can help prevent panic disorder before it has a chance to develop. Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and getting regular exercise can also help prevent this condition.

Flushing Hospital Medical Center’s Psychiatric Department offers treatment for people at risk of experiencing panic attacks or developing panic disorder. To receive more information or to schedule an appointment, please call our outpatient psychiatric clinic at (718) 670-5562.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.