A person with panic disorder experiences sudden and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, breathlessness, vertigo, or abdominal distress.
Panic disorder sufferers often develop phobias about places where previous episodes have occurred—such as shopping malls. They also develop fears about experiences that have set off previous attacks, such as taking a flight.
Approximately 2.4 million Americans—or 1.7 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 54—suffer from panic disorder each year. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the disorder.
Panic disorder is treated with medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy, a type of psychotherapy that teaches patients to view their attacks in a different way, as well as demonstrates how to reduce anxiety.