Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Therapy, Marriage, and Family Counseling.

Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder

Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder

As many as 4.7% of people will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives, panic disorder is a form of anxiety disorder which can be extremely intense, many times individuals who have a panic attack end up going to the emergency room imagining that the rapid heart beat and dizziness are a heart attack. Symptoms and features of anxiety disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV, laid forth by the American Psychiatric Association are as follows: To have experienced at least 4 of the following 13 symptoms;

Heart Palpitations



A feeling of smothering

Feeling of Choking

Discomfort or Pain in the chest


Abdominal distress including a heightened need to urinate or defecate

Dizziness or Lightheadedness

Derealization or Depersonalization

Fear of losing control or a feeling that you are “going crazy”

Sweating, Chills or Hot Flashes

The symptoms of a panic attack are hallmarked by their sudden onset and intensity, unusually a panic attack has an onset in as little as 10 minutes. In example a person who has experienced a panic attack may say “I was sitting on the bus when all of the sudden I felt like I couldn’t breathe, it was like my throat closed up and I was choking but there was nothing in my mouth. I became dizzy and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest, I started looking around and was going to cry for help. My fingers and toes felt numb and tingling, in a few minutes my heart slowed down a little bit but my stomach was really tight for hours after.”

As you can imagine someone who is experiencing a panic attack is suffering greatly. There are several different types of Panic disorder according to whether they are caused by a specific cue, such as public speaking or encountering an enclosed space such as the panic that can happen with claustrophobia. In other instances, panic attacks can be un-cued or non-specifically cued, this means that sometimes a person who has a panic attack may not understand what the trigger for their panic is until they seek treatment for the panic and uncover the deeper fears and how to manage the panic with their therapist.  A panic attack is differentiated from having a panic disorder which is to have had recurrent and unexpected panic attacks for a period of one month or more. Treatment for panic disorder are therapy, often most effectively Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with a licensed professional counselor and also medication is sometimes the best treatment. Usually it is a combination of these two treatments which best helps to manage panic disorder. Untreated panic disorder can greatly reduce quality of life, leading to long standing feelings of guilt and shame and even agoraphobia.

We are Pittsburgh's most trusted Integrative Counseling Center also providing services in Monroeville, PA. Our Licensed Professional Therapists specialize in Counseling and Wellness for Individuals, Marriage Counseling, and Family Counseling. We also staff a nutritionist, meditation instructor, and clinical herbalist. Sign up to receive invitations for our wellness workshops.

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