Panic disorder is characterized by the experience of repeated and unexpected panic attacks, which are intense surges of extreme fear or discomfort that last between a few minutes to an hour. Panic attacks can include physical symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, nausea, shaking, and sweating, as well as psychological symptoms such as intense anxiety and feelings of numbness or detachment from reality.
Since panic attacks are highly distressing, those who experience them generally become worried or anxious about having them, and may change their behaviour to try to avoid their onset (i.e. not wanting to exercise or go out in public). While some panic attacks occur in response to expected objects or situations, others may seem to occur randomly. Panic disorder can thus be highly disruptive to an individual’s work, health and ability to engage in daily activities.
At The Clinic on Dupont, our clinicians who specialize in panic disorder use cognitive-behavioural therapy to address the underlying thought patterns that sustain panic disorder and to desensitize the individual to the panic attacks through graduated exposure and response prevention.