What is Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia?
Panic Attacks are defined as discrete periods of intense fear or discomfort that are accompanied by at least four of the following thirteen symptoms:
palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
trembling or shaking
sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
feeling of choking
chest pain or discomfort
nausea or abdominal distress
feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded or faint
derealization (feeling of unreality) or depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself)
fear of losing control or going crazy
fear of dying
parathesias (numbness or tingling sensations)
chills or hot flushes
Panic Attacks can occur within the context of any of the anxiety disorders, but when the focus of attention is upon the panic attack itself you may have Panic Disorder.
Panic Disorder is characterized by recurrent unexpected Panic Attacks followed by at least one month of persistent concern about having additional attacks and worry about the implications of having the attacks. Typical worries might be fear of losing control, having a heart attack or going crazy.
Panic Disorder can be accompanied by Agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is fear of being in any situation from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing or in which it might be difficult to get help if something were to go wrong. These situations are either avoided completely or are endured with marked distress. Typical situations that might bother someone with Agoraphobia include being outside the home alone, standing in a line, crossing bridges or riding in buses, trains or cars.