Section Author: Greg Hajcak (Stony Brook University)
Panic disorder is characterized by unexpected periods of intense anxiety or fear that generally peak within 10 minutes (i.e., panic attacks). Physical symptoms characteristic of panic attacks include: racing or pounding heart, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, feelings of unreality; individuals may report that they fear they are dying, losing control, or going crazy during panic attacks. Individuals with panic disorder experience persistent fear about subsequent panic attacks and/or the consequences of having a panic attacks. Treatments for panic disorder are appropriate regardless of whether the panic is accompanied by agoraphobia, or avoidance of places where panic attacks seem likely.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (strong research support)
- Applied Relaxation (modest research support)
- Psychoanalytic Treatment (modest research support/controversial)
Also, see findings from the Division 12 clinical survey on the use of research-supported treatments for Panic Disorder.
Note: Other psychological treatments may also be effective in treating Panic Disorder, but they have not been evaluated with the same scientific rigor as the treatments above. Many medications may also be helpful for Panic Disorder, but we do not cover medications in this website. Of course, we recommend a consultation with a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and discussion of various treatment options. When you meet with a professional, be sure to work together to establish clear treatment goals and to monitor progress toward those goals. Feel free to print this information and take it with you to discuss your treatment plan with your therapist.