Panic Disorder is marked by repeated panic attacks, sometimes called "anxiety attacks."
Panic attacks are sudden bursts of fear or terror that sometimes occur "out of the blue" for no identifiable reason. Often, panic attacks may feel like medical emergencies. In fact, many people with panic disorder go to the emergency room because they think they are having a heart attack.
Symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Racing heart or palpitations
- Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy
- Chest pain
- Hot and cold flashes
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of unreality
People with Panic Disorder usually worry that they will have a panic attack in a place where there is no easy escape, such as a shopping mall or a city bus. They might begin to avoid these places, preferring instead to only go to places where escape will be easy. In time, this avoidance can grow and the person is able to go to fewer and fewer places.
This pattern of avoidance is called Agoraphobia. People with Agoraphobia can sometimes become completely housebound because of their fears.