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Panic Attacks versus Panic Disorder

By Richard Collier January 15, 2022


Panic attacks aren’t dangerous if they occur once or twice a year, but can panic attacks become a sign of a bigger problem?

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks cause the sympathetic nervous system to go into overdrive. This causes physical symptoms including

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling detached
  • Hot flashes


These symptoms can easily be mistaken for a heart attack, especially if the sufferer is experiencing their first episode.

When experiencing a panic attack, individuals feel as though they are losing control and can also feel as though the world is ending. They also might feel detached from themselves or from reality as a whole.


Panic attacks occur in it's most severe form during the first 20 minutes of the event, with many of the symptoms fading away within the hour. Often, the reason for the attack is unclear even to the sufferer. Although a panic attack can be a one-time thing or happen again on rare occasions, recurrent cases of panic attacks might indicate that the sufferer has a panic disorder.

What Are Some common Causes of Panic Attack?

A person who suffers from panic attacks may be genetically predisposed to them. Stressful events trigger panic attacks. There are many triggers, such as

  • Fear of flying
  • Driving
  • Crowds
  • Heights
  • Being alone
  • Public speaking 

What Are The Risk factors?

Panic disorders usually begin in young adults. Women are more likely to develop them than men. There are many factors that can contribute to the development of panic attacks. Stressful events in life can trigger panic attacks. Traumatic experiences can also cause panic attacks. Changes in life can lead to panic attacks.

People who smoke or drink too much coffee may be more likely to suffer from depression. Abuse in childhood is also linked to depression.

Complications To Consider.

Panic attacks are common among people who suffer from anxiety disorders. People with panic attacks often avoid places where they might feel trapped or overwhelmed. They tend to become anxious when faced with new things. Some people also develop specific fears related to their panic attacks. These fears could lead them to avoid certain activities. 

Panic Disorders

People who suffer from panic disorders have more than one attack. Panic attacks aren't always the result of one kind of situation. They are sometimes triggered by a recurring situation. This circle of anxiety can cause many people to avoid past experiences they've had if they caused them to have a series of panic attacks.

Panic disorders are thought to be caused by an unknown cause, but most of the time they can be treated by therapy or using a few self-help strategies. Therapy sessions can mitigate the problem, but sometimes medication or vitamins are used as well.

An individual experiencing a panic attack once is typically not a true sign of having a panic disorder. However, an untreated panic disorder can cause numerous panic attacks over time and could potentially lead to much larger problems.

If you feel like you are having a panic attack, seek help before the situation gets worse.


Conclusion On Panic Attacks versus Panic Disorder.

In conclusion, panic attacks and panic disorder are not the same. Panic disorder is a more serious mental health condition that can cause significant impairment in a person's life. If you are experiencing panic attacks, it is important to see a doctor to determine if you have panic disorder. There are many effective treatments available for panic disorder, so there is no need to suffer unnecessarily. If you think a loved one may be suffering from panic disorder, please encourage them to seek help.

Panic Attacks versus Panic Disorder FAQ

What are the symptoms of a panic attack?

Panic attacks typically include some of these signs or symptoms:

  • Sense of impending doom
  • Fear of loss of control or death
  • Rapid, pounding heart rate
  • Sweating Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
  • Chills Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Feeling of detachment 

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.

What is panic disorder?

Recurrent, unexpected panic attacks.

What are the risk factors for panic disorder?

Factors that may increase the risk of developing panic attacks or panic disorder include:

  • Family history of panic attacks or panic disorder
  • Major life stress, such as the death or serious illness of a loved one
  • A traumatic event, such as sexual assault or a serious accident
  • Major changes in your life, such as a divorce or the addition of a baby
  • Smoking
  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • History of childhood
  • physical or sexual abuse

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