Panic Disorder

panic disorder causes and treatments

Panic disorder is defined and characterised by the occurrence of panic attacks that often seem to grip a person. For panic disorder, the person must have been persistently concerned about having another attack or worried about the consequences of having an attack for at least a month (often referred to as anticipatory anxiety). For such an event to qualify as a full-blown panic attack, there must be abrupt onset of at least 4 of 13 symptoms, most of which are physical. Panic attacks are fairly brief but intense, with symptoms developing abruptly and usually reaching peak intensity within 10 minutes; the attacks often subside within 20 to 30 minutes and rarely last more than an hour.

Symptoms of panic disorder

A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and during which time four or more of the following symptoms occur:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feeling of choking
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light headed or fainting
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Parenthesis (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Feelings of unreality or feeling detached from oneself
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences (losing control, have a heart attack, going crazy)

People prone to panic attacks show behaviours designed to avoid having panic attacks such as avoidance of exercise or unfamiliar situations. Experts will also determine if the disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or hyperthyroidism or cardiopulmonary disorders.


The effectiveness of psychotherapies on reducing anxiety, stress and phobia is well established. In particular, cognitive behaviour therapy and clinical hypnotherapy have shown the most encouraging results.


Our panel has highly trained and qualified mental health professionals with competence as either cognitive behaviour therapists, clinical hypnotherapists, clinical and counselling psychologists. They have the necessary skills, competence and experience to help people overcome difficulties after determining the type of disorder and the right approach for that condition.

Medication is not usually recommended in the treatment of mild to moderate psychological problems. However, in some cases, it may be helpful to consider a combined approach of counselling and medication and we will advise on the right way to go about it.