At least 1.6 percent of adult Americans, or 3 million people, will have panic disorder at some time in their lives. Panic disorder is a serious health problem and is very different from other types of anxiety. Panic attacks are sudden, appear to be unprovoked, and are often disabling. If you have panic disorder, you may feel suddenly terrified for no reason. During a panic attack, you also have scary physical feelings like a fast heartbeat, trouble breathing, or dizziness.
Panic attacks can happen at any time and any place without warning. Many people with panic disorder develop intense anxiety between episodes. It is not unusual for a person with panic disorder to develop phobias about places or situations where panic attacks have occurred, such as in supermarkets or other everyday situations.
It usually starts when people are young adults, around 18 to 24 years old. Sometimes it starts when a person is under a lot of stress, for example after the death of a loved one or after having a baby. Anyone can have panic disorder, but more women than men have the illness. It sometimes runs in families.
Speaking to a specially trained doctor or counselor who can...