Panic Disorder Facts

Woman collapsed on floor, clutching her chest

Symptoms of panic disorder can feel completely debilitating, especially for those who have lived with the disorder for a prolonged period. There are tons of incredible treatment options for anyone dealing with this disorder who wants to work towards resolving these uncomfortable and at times unbearable symptoms.

How Common Is Panic Disorder?

Based on studies that were updated in 2017, about 2.7 percent of adults in the United States were diagnosed with panic disorder within the past year. Additional panic disorder facts include:

  • Women are diagnosed with panic disorder more often than men are.
  • Adolescents in the United States also experience panic disorder with 2.3 percent having a diagnosis, again with females experiencing higher rates than males.
  • In the United States, over two million people are living with panic disorder and that doesn't include those who have yet to be diagnosed.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

In order for a diagnosis to be given, you will need to meet certain criteria for panic disorder. Keep in mind that you can experience some symptoms of panic disorder, but still not qualify for a diagnosis. If you do not qualify, you can still seek out treatment and work through any uncomfortable symptoms you may be experiencing. To be diagnosed with panic disorder, you must have one panic attack followed by a minimum one month of fearing a subsequent panic attack. With panic disorder, you will have a panic attack that peaks in intensity in several minutes and has a minimum of four of the following symptoms:

  • Sweating, increased feelings of heat
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Chest discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Feeling dizzy or off balance
  • Heart palpitations that feel uncomfortable
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Choking sensation
  • Feel as if you are dying
  • Feeling numb
  • Chills or shivers
  • Feeling disconnected from your body or reality

For many people who experience panic disorder, the symptoms will negatively impact most or all aspects of their life. This may lead to other disorders, as well as extreme avoidance of certain situations or circumstances.

How Panic Disorder Is Diagnosed

Panic disorder can only be diagnosed by a trained professional. This means that a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, pharmacist, and social worker can diagnose you if you meet all the criteria for panic disorder. Whoever is treating you may ask you about:

  • Symptoms you are experiencing
  • Duration of the symptoms
  • Circumstances around the symptoms, such as triggers
  • How long you have been experiencing a given cluster of symptoms

They may also take a family history to find out what, if any, anxiety disorders run in your family. Physiological symptoms, medical conditions, and medication, as well as drug and alcohol use can lead to similar symptoms and will need to be ruled out prior to a professional making this diagnosis. If you don't meet the criteria, your treating professional may ask you more questions to rule out other diagnoses and/or make an appropriate referral.

Causes of Panic Disorder

Panic disorder, like many other mental health disorders, typically emerges around adolescence and intensifies as an individual nears adulthood. Those who have a family history of anxiety, have experienced past trauma or an intense life stressor, and/or have comorbid disorders may experience panic disorder. Although there is not one cause that has been identified, most likely there are a combination of factors that lead to this disorder.

Man having a panic attack

Panic Disorder Treatment

Panic disorder can be treated by a trained professional using a variety of modalities. There are many types of therapy options available that work well when it comes to treating panic disorder. The most important factor when it comes to treatment, whether you opt for therapy, medication, or a combination, is working with professionals who you fully trust. You'll want to be able to be completely honest with whoever you are working with, so if you feel as if you and your doctor or therapist aren't clicking, try someone else until you feel comfortable. Note that it's normal for it to take some time opening up to someone new. Just be sure that you feel safe enough with whoever is treating you to begin working towards opening up at your own pace.

Famous People With Panic Disorder Diagnosis

Many celebrities have been diagnosed with panic disorder or have experienced symptoms of panic disorder. Some include:

  • Stephen Colbert: Known for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
  • Kristen Stewart: Known for Twilight, The Runaways, and Panic Room
  • Adele: Known for her award winning singing and song-writing
  • Missy Elliot: Known for her award winning singing, rapping, song-writing, and producing
  • Ellie Goulding: known for her award winning singing and song-writing
  • Emma Stone: Known for her academy award winning role in La La Land, as well as Superbad, Easy A, Spiderman, and The Help
  • Joey Votto: Baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds
  • Sarah Silverman: Comedian, actor, writer, and producer
  • Demi Lovato: Known for her award winning singing, songwriting, and acting

Understanding Panic Disorder

Panic disorder can feel excruciating to live with. Experiencing symptoms of panic disorder can be your body and mind's way of giving you a not-so-subtle nudge when it comes to prioritizing your mental health and working through some difficult material. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of panic disorder, know that there are amazing treatments available that aim to reduce and hopefully completely eliminate symptoms of panic disorder so you can begin to enjoy your life without the fear of a panic attack overshadowing your experiences.

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Panic Disorder Facts