Panic Disorder (by Elaine)

Panic Disorder

by Elaine Lee

Panic Disorder (by Elaine) - The Neuron


Anxiety Disorder


Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder in which a person suddenly is in their panic mode. When they are in this "panic mode" they get a panic attack. This panic attack is very intense and unexpected. When the person undergoes panic attacks he or she show some of the following symptoms: difficulty of breathing, heart pounding (chest pain), extreme feeling of dread, sensation of choking or smothering, dizziness, and more. These strikes of sudden panic come without warning, wreaks people's mind, then disappears. People with this disease tend to already feel anxious. It's just that the anxiety escalates into a terrifying panic attack. During their panic attacks, people diagnosed with this disorder would most likely feel that something bad will happen. Once the person had several panic attacks, he or she would fear of having another one, which only exacerbates the issue. After several panic attacks, the person develops panic disorder. Many times, these panic attacks are misjudged as heart attacks. The extreme fearfulness causes the patient to be maladaptive. His or her relationship with his friends, family, co-workers will be extremely hindered because it could cause him or her to withdraw from normal activities. 1 2

Who gets this disorder?

People who tend to be also diagnosed with depression, alcoholism, or drug abuse have panic disorder. 2


Panic Disorder (by Elaine) - The Neuron

  • Difficulty of breathing
  • Heart pounding intensely (chest pain)
  • Extreme feeling of terror
  • Sensation of choking and smothering
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea or stomach ache
  • Numbness or tingling in toes or fingers
  • Chills or hot flashes (momentary feeling of extreme heat)
  • Feeling of losing control
  • Fear that something extremely bad will happen 4

Any Known Cause:

  • The cause of panic disorder isn't set-stone-clear; however, psychologists see patterns in the occurrence of panic attacks. Occasionally, panic disorder runs in the family, so if your grandmother and mother had panic disorder, you are more likely to have panic disorder than those with grandparents and parents without the disorder.
  • They also see a connection with major life changing transitions, such as graduating, entering workplace, having a baby, or getting married. Certain events that are extremely stressful, like the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, and severe physical abusing could possibly provoke panic attacks.
  • Panic disorder can also be caused because of medical and physical issues.
  1. Mitral valve prolapse: This is a condition people have when their cardiac valves don't close properly (these valves control breathing and blood flow around the heart) 5
  2. Hypothyroidism: Overactive tissues within the thyroid gland (overproduction of thyroid)
  3. Hyperglycemia: Lower than usual level of blood glucose
  4. Stimulants: Caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines, etc. can trigger panic attacks
  5. Substance abuse: People who smoke and drink a lot tend to have panic attacks more often 6

Case Study: originally written by Arthur Anderson (Case study of himself)

Arthur & Panic Disorder

Prior to panic disorder and PTSD, my life can be described as reasonably free of medical and psychological disorders. In 1963, I became the first born of three children (currently age 39). Perhaps my most significant childhood problem was some degree of social anxiety which was sometimes described as being a bit "shy." My shyness, however, rarely seemed remarkable to myself or anyone else at the time. I made a few friends as well as participated in Scouts, sports, orchestra, choir and theater. Like most of my peers, I began dating in my early teens. For the most part, I managed an average level of social functionality. Distinguishing between normal childhood insecurity and any possible anxiety disorder is difficult, at best.

Twice during childhood I had experiences that were similar to panic attacks. The first experience was an occasion of collapse (remaining conscious) at about age 10, and the second was an instance of fainting (unconscious for several minutes) at about age 14. These two cases involved spontaneous symptoms similar to panic attacks; including rapidly growing nausea, sweating, dizziness, decreasing muscular strength and control, and anxiety. There were no apparent environmental triggers. At the time, doctors suggested that these episodes could have been isolated attacks of hypoglycemia. Modern endocrinology recognizes that hypoglycemic attacks often produce anxiety, but there appears to be no evidence or models to suggest that anxiety attacks can produce hypoglycemic episodes (1). Nonetheless, my childhood medical tests were unable to confirm hypoglycemia and any relation of these early episodes to my adult panic disorder remains speculative.

The separation and divorce of my parents is important to mention. The separation occurred when I was 12 years old. This was a stressful event that I openly protested at the time. Many future sessions of psychoanalysis focused on this subject, yet no link was ever discovered between it and the sudden onset of chronic panic disorder 15 years later. Furthermore, my first brother (who was age 7 at the time) shared the experience but he never developed an anxiety disorder. Consequently, my parents' separation and divorce appear an insignificant factor in my adult anxiety disorders.

The remainder of my teen years and early adulthood were symptom free with the possible exception of mild social anxiety. During these years, it is important to note that I actively embraced mountaineering, attended Rutgers University, became a president of the physics club, a captain of the chess team and graduated with a degree in physics in 1986; which included minors in mathematics and computer science (including course work in celestial mechanics and artificial intelligence). Following graduation, I spent five years working for Computer Sciences Corporation of which the last three years were spent as a flight dynamics analyst on contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). I believe these details are important as they demonstrate adventurous and ambitious character traits that oppose common stereotypes of anxiety disorder patients. 7


Related Disorders:

  • Depression
  • Alcoholism
  • Drug abuse

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Pictures & Videos

Panic Disorder (by Elaine) - The Neuron

Panic Disorder (by Elaine) - The Neuron

Panic Disorder (by Elaine) - The Neuron


  1. Anonymous, Initials. (2010). Panic Disorder. Webmd. Retrieved (2010, March 18) from
  2. Belmonte, J. (2009). Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder. Helpguide. Retrieved (2010, March 18) from
  3. Anonymous, . (2004). Panic Disorder. Nimh. Retrieved (2010, March 18) from
  4. Ludewig, S. (2005, January). Information-processing deficits and cognitive dysfunction in panic disorder. Retrieved from
  5. Anonymous, Initials. (2010). Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP). Medicinenet. Retrieved (2010, March 18) from
  6. Cohen, S. (1995, February). Alcohol and benzodiazepines generate anxiety, panic and phobias. . Retrieved from
  7. Anderson, A. (2003, September 6). Arthur & panic disorder. Retrieved from

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