People with panic disorder have sudden and repeated panic attacks. Panic attacks, which generally last several minutes, are characterized by an intense and irrational fear of disaster or of losing control. A person experiencing a panic attack often also has strong physical symptoms that may feel like having a heart attack. The frequency and severity of panic attacks vary widely from person to person.
Because panic attacks can occur suddenly and without warning, it is common for people with panic disorder to be stressed out about the possibility of having another attack. Panic attacks and panic disorder can be incapacitating and seriously interfere with life. Panic disorder sometimes runs in families and is more common in women than in men. Visiting a mental health professional can help you identify the causes of panic disorder and is an important first step in treatment.