Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
"All of a sudden, I felt a tremendous wave of fear for no reason at all. My heart was pounding, my chest hurt, and it was getting harder to breathe. I thought I was going to die."
"I'm so afraid. Every time I start to go out, I get that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I'm terrified that another panic attack is coming or that some other, unknown terrible thing was going to happen."
The above statements are two examples of what a panic attack might feel like. Panic attacks may be symptoms of an anxiety disorder. These attacks are a serious health problem in the U.S. At least 20% of adult Americans, or about 60 million people, will suffer from panic attacks at some point in their lives. About 1.7% of adult Americans, or about 3 million people, will have full-blown panic disorder at some time in their lives, twice as often for women than men. The peak age at which people have their first panic attack (onset) is 15-19 years of age. Panic attacks are strikingly different from other types of anxiety; panic attacks are so very sudden and often unexpected, appear to be unprovoked, and are often disabling.
Childhood panic disorder facts include that about 0.7% of children suffer from panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder and that although panic is found to occur twice as often in women compared to men, boys and girls tend to experience this disorder at an equal frequency.
Once someone has had a panic attack, for example, while driving, shopping in a crowded store, or riding in an elevator, he or she may develop irrational fears, called phobias, about these situations and begin to avoid them. Eventually, the pattern of avoidance and level of anxiety about another attack may reach the point at which the mere idea of engaging in the activities that preceded the first panic attack triggers future panic attacks, resulting in the individual with panic disorder being unable to drive or even step out of the house. At this stage, the person is said to have panic disorder with agoraphobia. Thus, there are two types of panic disorder, panic disorder with or without agoraphobia. Like other mental illnesses, panic disorder can have a serious impact on a person's daily life unless the individual receives effective treatment.
Panic attacks in children may result in the child's grades declining, avoiding school and other separations from parents, as well as experiencing substance abuse, depression, and suicidal thoughts, plans, and/or actions.
Panic attacks are sudden feelings of terror that strike
without warning. These episodes can occur at any time, even during sleep. A person
experiencing a panic attack may believe that he or she is having a heart attack or that death