Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms

Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms

Anxiety, fear, and nervousness are all common feelings. However, when it crosses the line into panic disorder, it can become a debilitating condition that affects every area of life. Living with panic disorder can be miserable; however, there are ways to recognize it and treat it. Keep reading to learn more about panic disorder, what it is, the signs and symptoms, and ways to treat it.

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is a mental health condition and a form of anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people who suffer from panic disorder have sudden and repeated attacks of fear that last for several minutes or longer, called panic attacks. Panic attacks are characterized by a fear of disaster or losing control even when there is no real danger. A person may also have a strong physical reaction during a panic attack, such as feeling like they are having a heart attack. Panic attacks can occur at any time, and many people with panic disorder worry about and dread the possibility of having another attack.

Suffering from panic disorder can affect many areas of life. Some of this includes:

  • Isolation, due to fear of another attack
  • Social issues
  • Problems with relationships
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Suicide

Signs and Symptoms of Panic Disorder

Physical symptoms of panic disorder include:

  • Chest pain, mimicking symptoms of a heart attack
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Nausea
  • Poor balance or feeling “weak in the knees”
  • Stomach pain
  • Sweating
  • Tingly in hands
  • Weakness

Behavioral symptoms of panic disorder include:

  • Overwhelming anxiety and fear with seemingly no trigger
  • Feeling of losing control
  • Fear of death
  • Feeling impending doom
  • Constantly worrying about the next panic attack
  • Avoidance of places where panic attacks have taken place previously
  • Feeling like you need to exit wherever you are immediately

Ways to Treat Panic Disorder

Panic disorder can completely take over an individual’s life. Many people who have severe panic disorder are unable to leave their homes and enjoy their lives due to the constant fear of panic attacks taking place. It can be incredibly frustrating, which leads many to substance abuse to self-medicate or even driven to suicide because of its overwhelming symptoms. Luckily, there are ways to treat even the most severe forms of panic disorder with medication, psychotherapy, treatment at an inpatient mental health facility, or a combination of all.


Doctors may prescribe different types of medications to help treat panic disorder and ease symptoms. Some of the medications to treat panic disorder include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Beta-blockers
  • Benzodiazepines

Many individuals are able to take medication to ease the symptoms of panic disorder, allowing them to live a fuller life. However, these medications should be taken under the direct supervision of medical professionals, as taking these prescription medications may lead to addiction.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to treat panic disorder effectively. Through CBT, individuals learn new ways of reacting to an oncoming panic attack. Learning how to overcome those feelings and work through them helps the individual become more in control of their thoughts and feelings and, in turn, in control of the panic attack. By getting this under control, the physical symptoms lessen.

In addition to psychotherapy, lifestyle changes can drastically reduce the symptoms of panic disorder. By keeping stress levels low, anxiety is less likely to take place. Exercising, eating healthy foods, getting a full night’s sleep, and finding enjoyable hobbies and activities have all been shown to lessen the symptoms of panic disorder.

Some activities available in mental health treatment at Seasons Malibu include:

  • Meditation and yoga
  • Expressive arts therapy
  • Creative writing and journaling
  • Fitness training
  • Culinary arts
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Ocean adventure including surfing, swimming, and kayaking
  • Adventure and wilderness therapy, including mountain climbing
  • Academic and vocational support

About Seasons in Malibu

If panic, fear, and anxiety have taken over your life, we can help you. You do not have to live with panic disorder, and it is possible to live a full and happy life. We approach mental health as an opportunity for change, a time to start new, and we are both optimistic and pragmatic in our approach. We see success every day, and that is just the truth of our program—it works—and it will continue to work, as long as the client embraces it and allows us to deliver superior clinical care.

Treatment at Seasons in Malibu is systemic, integrative, and client-centered. Our philosophy is grounded in the understanding that for the client to heal, the entire system needs the opportunity to heal along with them. The pressure to “fix” the client can become overwhelming and unrealistic if we do not examine the underlying issues, dynamics, and environmental influences contributing to substance abuse or ongoing mental health issues. Whenever practical, we try to include close loved ones in sessions and in the entire process of recovering from addiction and/or addressing mental health issues.

Our exceptional team of clinicians can pinpoint those areas of focus that will give the client the most advanced opportunity for success. Our approach towards healing panic disorder is collaborative, comprehensive, and committed.