A panic disorder is a form of anxiety disorder characterized by frequent and reoccurring panic attacks. Panic attacks cannot be predicted, resulting in extreme anxiety, and can be quite disabling to the individual. Occasionally, the symptoms of a panic attack can be mistaken for a heart attack.
Common symptoms of panic attacks may include rapid heartbeat, perspiration, trembling, dizziness, and uncontrollable fear. Panic attacks generally last about ten minutes, but can last for as long as an hour, or can be characterized by several attacks in a succession.
There is no single cause for a panic disorder. However, some research has suggested that there is a genetic component to susceptibility. Many panic disorders arise from psychological stress. Individuals suffering from PTSD have a greater tendency to develop a panic disorder, as are individuals who take on excessive responsibilities.
There is no know cure for a panic disorder, but treatment with medication and therapy can be effective at controlling it. Some 85 to 90 percent of individuals with a panic disorder can be successfully treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The American Psychological Association generally recommends a combination of pharmacology and therapy in treating panic disorders. Medications such as SSRIs, a form of antidepressants, are generally prescribed.