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Adult panic disorder is a syndrome characterized by recurrent episodes of abrupt, acute anxiety and bodily shock, sometimes known as “panic attacks”. In contrast to other anxiety disorders, these episodes are more acute and brief. Although panic episodes typically last just a few minutes, their consequences might linger throughout the day in the form of trembling and anxiety.

What Does a Panic Disorder Look Like?

  • A panic disorder is marked by multiple panic attacks, which can happen for no clear reason.
  • People with panic disorders may also react more strongly to pressure and stress from the outside world.
  • Panic attacks from a disorder can happen even when everything is calm, like right when you wake up from a nap.

What Causes a Panic Disorder?

There is no single answer to the question of what causes a panic disorder, but several things can lead to one including:

  • Life events – A panic disorder can start after a traumatic event or a big change in your life like a death, divorce, move or change in your job.
  • Other anxiety disorders – People who have PTSD or agoraphobia are more likely to get a panic disorder.
  • Medication – Prescription drugs can cause panic disorders (or cause them to worsen when you stop taking them).
  • Mental health – A person with another type of anxiety disorder may be more likely to develop a panic disorder. This is especially true if they use stimulants, which can worsen their symptoms.

How Can I Help an Adult With a Panic Disorder?

  • Remain calm – Panic creates more panic, so if a panic attack makes you feel uncertain and scared, that can worsen the situation. Don’t let a panic attack or anxiety outburst scare or upset you. Instead, stay completely calm, breathe through it and tell them to do the same. By keeping a steady, calm mood, you can help a friend or loved one stay calm and look to you as a source of emotional security.
  • Be there for them – The most important thing you can do as a parent or friend is just be there. They might need some space sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you should leave them alone. Always be closeby and ready to help, either by being there or simply by saying something. You can find a lot of information online about what to say (and what not to say) to someone with an anxiety disorder or a panic attack, but you must always try to be there and stay there.
  • Learn more about anxiety – Anxiety disorders are hard to understand because they often look like irrational fear and don’t seem to make sense from the outside. Many unseen thoughts and things can make a panic attack feel worse; the attack itself can feel like a heart attack or something else very serious. It’s a scary time, and not knowing what’s going on is even scarier. Take the time to learn more about your loved one’s condition and anxiety disorders in general. This will help you better understand their situation and what they’re going through.

What Types of Treatment Are Available?

A panic disorder can be scary because there’s no way to know when the next panic attack will occur. Most of the time, there’s no clear pattern to how and when a panic attack will happen, and sufferers of panic disorders often have other anxiety disorders or are at risk of getting them. A panic disorder is easy to treat, and there are many different ways to do it:

  • Talk Therapy – Psychotherapy or talk therapy is often the first step in treating panic disorder. This can be used to figure out if someone has a panic disorder in the first place. They learn through behavioural therapy how and why panic attacks happen, along with how to recognize signs and triggers that make people feel uncomfortable and anxious before a panic attack. Cognitive therapy is especially good for reducing panic attacks, and a skilled therapist in a calm environment can help an adult live a life without panic attacks after treatment.
  • Relaxation Therapy – General anxiety is easier to treat with relaxation therapy than panic attacks. However, when combined with behavioural and cognitive therapy, relaxation therapy can help them learn how to deal with their disorder and avoid severe symptoms. Aromatherapy, music therapy, hydrotherapy and hypnotherapy are all forms of relaxation therapy that can help calm fears, improve sleep and more.

Choose OCL’s Programs for Panic Disorder

We help adults with developmental disabilities live in their communities as independently and as fully as possible. Using a “Person-Centered Approach” (PCA), we help people set life goals and visions and then work with them, their families and friends to find the right support and services to help them reach their goals.Understanding Panic Disorder in Young Adults

OCL has worked with families for more than 35 years to make sure their loved ones get the care and support they need to live independent, full lives. OCL gives people support and opportunities to help them grow as people and build relationships with other people in the Ottawa community. 

Call us in Ottawa at (613) 254-9400 or visit to learn more about panic disorders in young adults.

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