What is panic disorder?
People with panic disorder have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and usually last for several minutes. They misinterpret symptoms, such as a racing heart and dizziness, as a sign that they might die or go mad, for example. This, in turn, produces more anxiety and physical symptoms. Panic attacks can even start while the person is asleep. Panic disorder can lead to phobias when the sufferer avoids situations in which they previously suffered a panic attack, and often occurs with agoraphobia. It is twice as common in women as in men.
Can we treat panic disorder?
Cognitive behavioural therapy can be a successful treatment for panic disorder. It helps people to challenge their incorrect beliefs about their symptoms, for example, by showing them that distraction reduces the symptoms they believe to be a heart attack. It also encourages them to do things to test the beliefs, proving that even when they don't try to control the symptoms, catastrophes do not happen. Drug treatments are also used.