Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by bouts of anxiety and fear. The name comes from the Greek god Pan, who lived in the woods and scared pilgrims by his appearance.


The exact cause of this disorder is unknown. Its first signs usually occur in teenagers and young adults before the age of 30. Apparently, panic disorder is related to an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. The neurotransmitters are compounds in the brain that are involved in transmission of nerve impulses between the nerve cells. Psychological stress and exhaustion increase the risk of a panic attack.


The disease occurs in bouts alternating with periods of relative calm. A seizure is accompanied by an attack of strong anxiety, which is virtually unmanageable. The anxiety has rather a general character and the person is afraid of an indeterminate acute danger, loss of self-control, or even death. The fear is accompanied with a number of somatic symptoms such as the chest pain, hand tremor, palpitations and tingling sensations of the extremities. The panicking person is either paralyzed by fear or he may try at all costs to escape from the place where the attack occurred. Panic attacks are often linked with agoraphobia (fear of open spaces). The person is often brought to a hospital to exclude organic cause of his problems such as the heart attack.


The condition is treated by psychiatrists. Regular psychotherapeutic sessions should familiarize the patient with the disease and teach him to cope with his fear. Medications may be used to support the patient such as antidepressants and anxiolytics. During the acute attack, it is possible to use rapidly acting drugs from the group of benzodiazepines.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources