​Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is characterized by repeated panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden, overwhelming feeling of fear that strikes you all of a sudden, without any understandable cause or warning. They can happen any time during the day, sometimes even when you’re resting, or performing other everyday activities such as driving, walking down the street or relaxing at home. 

Some of the known causes of panic attacks and panic disorder are:

  • Having a family history of the disease

  • Brain structure abnormalities

  • Alcohol, drug or other substance abuse

  • Stressful life events such as graduation, marriage, abuse or death

The type of fear experienced in a panic attack and panic disorders is different from the normal fear and anxiety you would face in an everyday situation. An important characteristic of panic disorder is the fear of having repeated panic attacks, which causes you to become withdrawn and anti-social.​

The common symptoms of panic attacks are as follows:

  • Difficulty in breathing normally

  • Racing heartbeat sometimes accompanied by chest pain

  • A sinking feeling of dread 

  • The feeling that you are choking 

  • Feeling of being dizzy 

  • Trembling 

  • Sweating

  • Nausea 

  • Stomach-aches

  • Numbness experienced in the extremities (fingers and toes)

  • Chills or hot flashes in your body

  • A feeling of losing control or imminent death​

The symptoms of panic disorder are as follows:

  • Fear of future panic attacks

  • A feeling of being out of control

  • Avoiding those places where you have experienced prior panic attacks

  • Symptoms of panic attacks, such as nausea, dizziness, numbness or chest pain.

If you have repeated panic attacks, feel constantly worried and anxious, and experience several of the symptoms mentioned above, seek help from your doctor working with the Mind and Brain Service Line​ at The Aga Khan University Hospital. You can safely and privately discuss your symptoms, gain advice and receive personalized treatment and care.​

You can also consult the Family Health Services at the Aga Khan University Hospital for a preliminary examination.

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here​ are some tips to help get you started.​

Your doctor will diagnose panic disorder based on a comprehensive evaluation to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. However, there are no lab tests that can be used to specifically diagnose panic disorder.

Your evaluation will start with a detailed medical history, physical exam and psychological exam. You need to have a past history of panic attacks to be considered eligible for panic disorder. Your doctor may conduct a physical examination to check for signs whether your anxiety is linked to another underlying disease. He/she will also conduct a psychological evaluation and ask you detailed questions about your symptoms and history.

Your diagnosis will be based on the intensity, duration and frequency of your symptoms, and will be made after a thorough evaluation by a psychiatrist or psychologist.​

Panic disorder is treated with a combination of drugs and psychotherapy. Sometimes you may be prescribed anti-anxiety medications as well as anti-depressants, and sometimes even heart medications (such as beta blockers) that are used to control irregular heartbeats. Some of these medications may also cause side effects such as headache, nausea, or disturbed sleeping patterns. You need to discuss your symptoms and side effects with your doctor to find the right dosage for your particular case.

Psychotherapy or psychological counselling is another important method to treat panic anxiety disorder. Cognitive behavioural therapy is particularly useful and focuses on helping you identify your panic triggers and helps you to replace those thoughts with more realistic, positive ways of thinking. It is often scary to have feelings of panic building up inside you. These are not dangerous but can be disturbing and disrupt your everyday activities. It is important to be honest with your psychologist about your symptoms and medication so that he/she can help you with formulating the best course of action for your treatment.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage​.


​​​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.