Panic disorders are characterized by panic attacks that reoccur at unpredictable times with intense apprehension, fear, and terror. The disorder typically begins in young adulthood, but older people and children can be affected. Women are affected twice as frequently as men. .
Typically, the first panic attack seems to come out of the blue while a person is engaged in some ordinary activity like driving or walking to work. Suddenly a barrage of frightening and uncomfortable symptoms strikes the person. These symptoms often include terror, a sense of unreality, or fear of losing control. The barrage of symptom usually lasts several seconds, but may continue for several minutes. For example, many people with panic disorders fear that they are having a heart attack, that they're about to lose control, or that they're going crazy. Other people with panic believe that because they can't catch their breath that they're suffocating, or that the dizziness, lightheadedness, and "unreal" feeling they experience means they have a terrible undiagnosed illness. The person with a tightness around the head fears they have a brain tumor. People can be checked, rechecked, and use the hospital emergency rooms repeatedly before it ever begins to get clear to them that what they are legitimately suffering from is anxiety, and not a physical, medical condition. The central point is that people with panic fear that they have a physical, medical disease. When doctors report that they cannot find anything wrong with the person medically, it only heightens the person's anxiety. After all, something MUST BE WRONG or else how do you explain the horrific sensations and emotions they went through during the panic attack? .
Unfortunately, many people are never told that they are experiencing anxiety, and that a panic attack could be the culprit. Sometimes, especially when the panic occurs frequently and in many diverse places, the person feels more and more restricted as to where they can go and still be safe.