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Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks.

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. These attacks are sudden, intense periods of extreme fear or discomfort that reach their peak within minutes. Individuals with Panic Disorder often live with the constant worry about when the next panic attack will occur, leading to significant changes in behavior as they try to avoid situations or places that might trigger an episode.

A panic attack typically involves a combination of physical and psychological symptoms, such as a rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, and a feeling of impending doom. The fear during a panic attack can be so intense that individuals may believe they are having a heart attack or going crazy.

The exact cause of Panic Disorder is complex and likely involves a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Traumatic life events, chronic stress, or a family history of anxiety disorders can contribute to its development. Neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain, particularly involving serotonin and norepinephrine, are also believed to play a role.

Treatment for Panic Disorder

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

At Light On Anxiety, our specialized therapists are trained to provide compassionate and evidence-based CBT treatment  for individuals struggling with panic disorder.

CBT-based therapy for panic disorder entails:

  • Learning to identify and challenge negative thought patterns associated with panic.
  • Developing coping strategies to manage anxiety and distress.
  • Engaging in exposures to feared bodily sensations or triggers through interoceptive exposure exercises.

Interoceptive exposure involves intentionally inducing physical sensations (such as increased heart rate, dizziness, or shortness of breath) that mimic those experienced during panic attacks in a safe and controlled environment. Through repeated exposure to these sensations without avoidance or escape behaviors, individuals learn to tolerate discomfort, reduce their fear response, and regain a sense of control over their anxiety.

With personalized treatment plans and supportive therapy sessions, we empower individuals to overcome panic disorder and lead more fulfilling lives.


Medication can be an important component of treatment for Panic Disorder, particularly for managing symptoms such as panic attacks, anticipatory anxiety, and avoidance behaviors. At Light On Anxiety, our team of psychiatric providers collaborates closely with clients to assess their unique needs and develop personalized medication regimens.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are commonly prescribed to reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Our approach to medication management prioritizes safety, efficacy, and collaboration with clients to ensure they receive the most appropriate treatment for their symptoms while minimizing potential side effects.

Integrating CBT + Medication

A combined approach of therapy, including CBT and interoceptive exposure, and medication management may provide the most comprehensive treatment for Panic Disorder. At Light On Anxiety, we offer integrated treatment plans that address both the psychological and physiological aspects of panic disorder.

Our therapists and psychiatric providers work closely together with clients to tailor treatment plans to their individual needs and preferences.

  • CBT helps individuals develop coping skills, challenge negative thoughts, and confront their fears through interoceptive exposure.
  • Medication management targets symptoms of panic and anxiety, providing additional support and relief.

Through this combined approach, we empower individuals to overcome panic disorder and achieve greater emotional well-being and quality of life.

Your Unique Path to Freedom From Panic Disorder 

Our goal is to create a treatment plan that aligns with your needs and preferences, recognizing that each individual’s journey is unique.

What are the symptoms of Panic Disorder?

Symptoms of Panic Disorder include:

Panic attacks are marked by an overwhelming sense of fear or impending doom, often disproportionate to the situation.

A noticeably fast or pounding heart rate (palpitations) is a common physical symptom during a panic attack.

Profuse sweating, sometimes to the point of feeling clammy or drenched.

Involuntary trembling or shaking of the body, especially in the limbs.

Difficulty breathing or a sensation of being smothered, often accompanied by a feeling of tightness in the chest.

Individuals may experience chest pain or discomfort, which can contribute to the fear of having a heart attack.

Feeling unsteady, dizzy, or lightheaded is a common symptom during panic attacks.

Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea or stomach upset.

A sudden sensation of chills or hot flashes may accompany a panic attack.

Many individuals fear that they are losing control or going insane during a panic attack.

A pervasive fear of dying may be present during a panic attack.

FAQs about Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) share common ground in involving excessive fear or worry but differ significantly in their nature and manifestation. Panic Disorder is characterized by the sudden onset of unexpected and intense panic attacks, marked by overwhelming fear and distressing physical symptoms. These episodes are short-lived but can be highly disruptive. In contrast, Generalized Anxiety Disorder revolves around chronic and pervasive worry concerning various aspects of life, spanning work, relationships, health, and daily events. While the intensity of symptoms in GAD may be lower than the sudden and intense panic attacks seen in Panic Disorder, the persistent nature of excessive worry is a defining feature.

Panic Disorder itself is a specific type of anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. However, there aren’t distinct “types” of Panic Disorder in the same way that there are subtypes for some other mental health conditions. Instead, Panic Disorder is primarily diagnosed based on the presence of recurrent panic attacks and associated behaviors.

Panic Disorder itself is not typically life-threatening. However, the intense physical symptoms experienced during panic attacks, such as rapid heart rate and shortness of breath, may lead to concerns about a serious medical condition, like a heart attack.

Yes, many individuals with Panic Disorder can lead normal and fulfilling lives with proper treatment and support.

More About Treatment for Anxiety

What is CBT & ERP for OCD?

Light On Anxiety CEO Dr Debra Kissen describes how CBT & ERP helps clients move past OCD and other anxiety disorders.

Learn more about how we can create a custom individual treatment plan to fit your goals.

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