Panic Disorder Treatment

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by unanticipated episodes of intense fear often accompanied by physical symptoms (e.g., chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, heart palpitations). These experiences can be so frightening for people that itcan often lead to intense worry and dread about when the next panic attack will occur and/or extreme avoidance of certain situations that can ultimately impede functioning.

Seeking treatment for panic disorder is important. Panic attacks can be overcome with proper treatment so you can go back to a normal daily life.

Associated Disorders

Panic Atacks

The hallmark sign of panic disorder is a panic attack. It is important to note that not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder. Many people have just one attack and never have another. A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. It is far more intense than the feeling of being “stressed out” that most people experience.


Agoraphobia is when the fear of future panic attacks causes someone to avoid situations or places that are thought to cause the attacks. This can lead a person to severely limit where they go or whom they are around. Early panic disorder treatment can help to prevent agoraphobia.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a common co-occurring problem with people who experience panic attacks and are diagnosed with panic disorder. Substances are often used as a way to cope with fear, which can result in increased mental health and life-functioning difficulties.


It is very common for people diagnosed with panic disorder to experience depression. Given the interference panic can have on normal, everyday functioning, people diagnosed with the disorder often struggle with depressed feelings.

Panic Disorder Symptoms

Panic attacks, which are a main symptom of panic disorder, begin suddenly and most often peak within 10 to 20 minutes. However, some of the symptoms of a panic attack may last for an hour or more. Panic attacks occur suddenly, without warning, and the level of fear associated with the panic attack is significantly out of proportion to the actual situation.

A panic attack’s symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain/discomfort
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating, chills, or hot flashes
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of choking
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Feelings of detachment/unreality
  • Nausea
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands, feet, or face

As you can see, the symptoms of a panic attack can often be mistaken for a major medical problem, like a heart attack. Although a panic attack is not dangerous, it can feel quite terrifying because it is so unexpected and feels so out of control.

Panic attacks may also include anxiety about being in a situation where an escape may be difficult (such as being in a crowd). It should not be surprising that a person with panic disorder often lives in fear of another attack, and may be afraid to be alone or far from medical help, especially since the attacks are unpredictable. However, with proper panic disorder treatment, an individual can learn to identify certain triggers, signs and coping mechanisms to help control the disorder.

Causes of Panic Disorder

According to the American Psychological Association, the exact causes of Panic Disorder are unclear. However, according to the same resource, there may be a connection with major life transitions that are potentially stressful. Research has also shown that there may be some evidence for a genetic predisposition (e.g., if a family member has suffered from panic disorder, you have an increased risk of suffering from it yourself, especially during a time in your life that is particularly stressful).

Commonality of Panic Disorder

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Panic Disorder affects about 6 million American adults. It is twice as common in women as men and usually appears during the teens or early adulthood. Panic attacks often begin in late adolescence or early adulthood. It is important to note that not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder. Many people have just one attack and never have another.

Panic Disorder Diagnosis

Accurately diagnosing panic disorder is very important because it is one of the most treatable types of anxiety disorders. The key symptom of panic disorder is the persistent fear of having future panic attacks. Keep in mind, many people experience one or two episodes of panic throughout the course of their lifetimes. However, if you suffer from repeated (four or more) panic attacks, and especially if you have had a panic attack and are in continued fear of having another, these are signs that you should seek professional treatment for your panic attacks.

Diagnosing a panic disorder may take place during the normal course of therapy and counseling, or diagnosis may require a more comprehensive psychological evaluation (to rule out other potential issues).

Equilibria’s therapists in Philadelphia will ask many questions throughout the evaluation process (whether it is simply an interview or a more formal psychological evaluation) that assesses a client’s history of symptoms.

Panic Disorder Treatment

Equilibria’s psychologists and therapists in Philadelphia are trained to provide panic disorder treatment by utilizing cognitive and behavioral therapies, which research has shown to be most effective in treating panic disorder.

In some cases, we may provide a referral to a psychiatrist for medication management if that is what the client and therapist decide is best. Studies have shown that individuals who are committed to the therapy process have shown improvements within 10 to 20 weekly sessions.

Schedule a Panic Disorder Treatment Appointment

If you would like to meet or talk with one of our psychologists or therapists in Philadelphia about Panic Disorder treatment, call us at (267) 861-3685, option 1; or fill out our online form.