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Panic disorder

2-minute read

Panic disorder occurs when somebody has a lot of panic attacks and it affects their life. Here is more information about the difference between panic attacks and panic disorder, how to help manage symptoms and where to get professional help.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a response to a stressful situation, where you feel like you are losing control.

If you have a panic attack, you might have a racing heart and be flushed with pain in your chest. You might feel sweaty, shaky, dizzy, faint and breathless.

It can take time to work out whether you are having a panic attack or a heart problem.

If you are in any doubt, and you have pain in your chest, then call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance. If calling triple zero (000) does not work on your mobile phone, try calling 112.

How is a panic attack different to panic disorder?

In panic disorder, you have a lot of panic attacks, not just a few. You feel in constant fear of having another one.

How is a panic disorder treated?

If you suffer from panic disorder, it can be helpful to know 2 things:

  • there is probably no life-threatening danger
  • the symptoms will go away

To manage panic disorder, you need strategies to regain some control. Techniques that can help you feel calmer include:

Where to get help

If you are experiencing panic attacks, talk to your doctor. You may be eligible for a mental health care plan which can help you access Medicare funding for psychological therapies. Or you can contact one of the services below to speak with someone or chat online:

  • Kids Helpline (telephone and online counselling for ages 5-25) — call 1800 55 1800.
  • Mensline Australia (online counselling and forum for men) — call 1300 78 99 78.
  • Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) — call 13 11 14.
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467
  • MindSpot Clinic (anyone suffering from anxiety or depression) — call 1800 61 44 34.
  • beyondblue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
  • Black Dog Institute (people affected by depression and extreme mood swings) — online help.


beyondblue (Panic disorder), Cochrane (Antidepressants for panic disorder in adults), Cochrane (Psychological therapies for panic disorder with or without agoraphobia in adults), Cochrane (Azapirones versus placebo for panic disorder in adults)

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Last reviewed: August 2019

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