What is panic disorder?

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder where you regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear. Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and panic at certain times. It’s a natural response to stressful or dangerous situations. Someone with panic disorder frequently feels anxious, stressed and experiences ‘panic attacks’ regularly and at any time, often without an obvious trigger. A panic attack can be very frightening and distressing.

Most panic attacks last between 5 and 20 minutes. Some have been reported to last up to an hour. The number of attacks you have will depend on how severe your condition is. Some people have attacks once or twice a month, while others have them several times a week.

Although panic attacks are frightening, they’re not dangerous. An attack will not cause you any physical harm.

Do I have panic disorder?

You may have panic disorder if you quite regularly experience some of the below symptoms:

Symptoms of a panic attack:

During a panic attack you get a rush of intense mental and physical symptoms. It can come on very quickly and for no apparent reason.

Physical symptoms include:
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Feeling faint
  • Sweating
  • nausea
  • chest pain
  • breathlessness 
  • trembling
  • hot flushes
  • chills
  • shaky limbs
  • a choking sensation
  • dizziness
  • numbness
  • dry mouth
  • a need to go to the toilet
  • ringing in your ears
  • a feeling of dread or a fear of dying
  • a churning stomach
  • a tingling in your fingers
  • feeling like you’re not connected to your body
Cognitive symptoms include:
  • Not be able to think clearly
  • Not being able to concentrate on anything else
  • Thinking you are going to die, can not breath, are having a heart attack, are going to lose control.
Behavioural symptoms include:
  • Avoiding situations, you think will bring on an attack, such as public transport, lifts, crowded areas.
  • Taking measures to be able to prevent or manage an attack, such as always carrying water, or tablets, lying down / not standing up, holding tightly onto something to keep you steady.

Online therapy and treatment for panic disorder:

National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines primarily recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy  (CBT) for panic disorder. CBT focuses on the reciprocal relationships between cognitions, emotions, physiological responses and behaviors in order to understand how difficulties are maintained in the ‘here-and-now’. Treatment emphasises collaborative empiricism; working with your therapist to ‘test’ the validity of anxious thoughts with a view to minimise anxiety and unhelpful behavioural responses.

Other approaches with emerging research to support people in overcoming panic disorder include: ACT and EMDR.

At Counselling Psychology Online, many of our online therapists are trained in these approaches and have several years’ experience in helping people manage their anxiety. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to arrange an initial assessment session.

You may also wish to look at our resources page for further ideas of getting help to manage symptoms of panic disorder.


Please see answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about panic disorders. Please email or telephone 07584 328192 for any other questions.

How do I know if I have a panic disorder?

Due to the instinctive nature of the feelings of panic, it can sometimes be hard to recognise if what you are experiencing in “normal” responses to stressful or dangerous situations, or if you have a panic disorder. If you are frequently getting some of the symptoms of a panic attack, it would be a good idea to get in touch so that we can arrange a comprehensive assessment of your difficulties and determine whether you have a panic disorder. Please contact us by emailing or calling 07584 328192.

What is the difference between talking with a friend and talking with a therapist about your panic disorder?

Whilst a friend might be able to offer good advice and support, talking to a therapist or counsellor who is trained in their field to offer non-judgemental, confidential support will be very different. A therapist will also not share past experiences and or their own feelings and the whole session will be focused on the person receiving the support for panic disorders.

What locations do you offer your therapy for panic disorder?

As we are a group of online therapists and counsellors, we can offer therapy throughout the UK and are not limited by our location. Please contact us by emailing or calling 07584 328192.