Panic disorder is a condition characterised by recurring and regular panic attacks. People who suffer from panic disorder will experience frequent intense surges of terror and anxiety, which can strike suddenly without warning. In between attacks sufferers may also constantly worry about further attacks and may fret over the symptoms that they trigger, including dizziness, chest pains and heart palpitations.
It can be very stressful living with panic disorder, and many sufferers go on to develop further problems such as depression, and drug or alcohol abuse. A number of people with panic disorder will also avoid situations where they fear an attack may occur, and in severe cases may become housebound. However, early treatment can help to prevent this. Anxiety and feelings of panic are completely natural human responses, designed to enhance our chances of survival and help us to deal effectively with stressful or dangerous situations. Unfortunately, some people will experience feelings of anxiety, stress and panic on a regular basis.
Around one in 10 people in the UK have the occasional panic attack, which are usually triggered by a stressful event. They strike, often without warning, when the body experiences a rush of intense emotional and physical symptoms. Panic disorder is a result of these one-off attacks escalating to the extent that they become more frequent and less predictable. The NHS estimates that one in 100 people are currently affected - young people as well as adults - and the condition is twice as common in women as it is in men.