Panic disorder is categorized by recurrent experiences of sudden and intense moments of extreme stress or panic that peak quickly. These experiences are known as panic attacks, and they are accompanied by physical symptoms that may include heart palpitations, dry mouth, sweating, chills, dizziness and a feeling that something terrible is going to happen. Some may even mistake these symptoms for other major medical events such as a heart attack.
About 6 million American adults suffer from panic disorder, with the majority of these patients being women. The condition often begins in the teenage or early adulthood years. However, it is important to note that experiencing a panic attack does not equate to a panic disorder. For many, panic attacks are isolated events, occurring only a time or two. Panic disorder, on the other hand, occurs more frequently and is far more disruptive, often leading sufferers to take measures to avoid situations where such a reaction may be triggered.