What Is It?
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. A person with panic disorder has panic attacks. These are repeated, unexpected episodes of intense fear and anxiety accompanied by physical symptoms that are similar to the body's normal response to danger.
If you are truly in danger (for example, if you are confronted by a criminal with a gun), your body readies itself for "fight or flight." Heart rate increases. Blood rushes to arm and leg muscles, causing a trembling or tingling sensation. You may sweat and become flushed. You become intensely fearful, aroused and very alert. For people having a panic attack, these changes occur even though there is no physical threat. At the height of a panic attack, there may be a frightening feeling that the environment has somehow become unreal or detached. The person may worry about dying, having a heart attack, losing control or "going crazy."