Glossary of Medical Terms

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a disabling mental condition in which a person has repeated, unexpected panic attacks and constantly worries about having another. Panic disorder, which usually starts in late adolescence or early adulthood and may last a lifetime, can interfere with work and social relationships if it is not treated.

Panic attacks have frightening but not life-threatening symptoms such as rapid breathing (hyperventilation) and a pounding heart. Often a person having a panic attack feels that he or she is losing control or dying. An attack starts suddenly and may last from 5 to 20 minutes. You feel most anxious about 10 minutes into the attack.

Panic disorder can be treated with counseling and medicines to help minimize or eliminate panic attacks and decrease the anxiety that accompanies the fear of future attacks. Early diagnosis and treatment of panic attacks can prevent other conditions linked with panic disorder, such as depression or substance abuse.

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