Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is where you have recurring and regular panic attacks, often for no obvious reason.

Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and panic at certain times during their lifetime. It is a perfectly natural response, particularly when you are in a dangerous or stressful situation. However, for people with panic disorder, feelings of anxiety, stress and panic occur regularly and at any time.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of unease. The feeling of unease can range from mild to severe, and can include feelings of worry and fear.
 
There are several different conditions that can cause severe anxiety. They include:

  • phobias: an extreme or irrational fear of an animal, object, place or situation
  • generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): a long-term condition that causes excessive anxiety and worry relating to a variety of situations
  • post-traumatic stress disorder: a condition that has psychological and physical symptoms and is caused by very frightening or distressing events

Panic attacks

A panic attack occurs when your body experiences a rush of intense psychological (mental) and physical symptoms.

You may feel an overwhelming sense of fear, apprehension and anxiety. As well as these feelings, you may also experience physical symptoms such as:

  • nausea
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • a sensation that your heart is beating irregularly (palpitations)

Panic attacks can be very frightening and intense, but they are not dangerous. A panic attack will not cause you any physical harm and it is unlikely that you will be admitted to hospital if you have had a panic attack.

How common is panic disorder?

At least one person in 10 experiences occasional panic attacks, which are usually triggered by a stressful event.

The number of panic attacks that you have will depend on the severity of your condition. Some people may have one or two attacks each month, while others may have several attacks a week.

In the UK, approximately one person in 100 has panic disorder. Most people first develop the disorder when they are in their twenties. The condition is approximately twice as common in women as it is in men.

If you have panic disorder, it may affect your ability to drive. It is your legal obligation to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) about a medical condition that could have an impact on your driving ability. The Directgov website provides information about how to tell the DVLA about a medical condition.

 

Information from NHS Choices

Mental Health Foundation
Mental Health Foundation
The Royal College Of Psychiatrists