Panic disorder is a condition in which the person with the disorder suffers recurrent panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden attacks that are not caused by a substance (like caffeine), medication, or by a medical condition (like high blood pressure), and during the attack, the sufferer may experience sensations such as accelerated or irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath, dizziness, or a fear of losing control or "going crazy." The sudden attack builds quickly (usually within 10 minutes) and is almost paralyzing in its severity. When a diagnosisof panic disorder is given, the disorder can be considered one of two different types—panic disorder with or without agoraphobia.
The handbook for mental health professionals (called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or theDSM-IV-TR) classifies both types of panic disorder as anxiety disorders.
Panic disorder without agoraphobia
Panic disorder without agoraphobia is defined by the DSM-IV-TRas a disorder in which patients are plagued by panic attacks that occur repeatedly and without warning. After these attacks, the affected individual worries for one month or more about having more embarrassing attacks, and may change his or her behavior with regard to these attacks. For example, a patient may fear that he or she has a cardiac condition, and may quit a job or quit exercising because of the fear. Patients may also worry that they are going to lose control or appear insane to other people. Panic disorder without agoraphobia has a less severe set of symptoms than panic disorder with agoraphobia. Patients without agoraphobia do not become housebound—they suffer panic attacks but do not have significant interference in their level of function and are still able to accomplish their daily activities.
Susan Hobbs M.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,