Panic disorder is characterized by repeated panic attacks that are unexpected. Panic attacks are episodes of sudden fearfulness or terror that are accompanied by several physical symptoms. People with panic disorder typically live in dread of having another panic attack and may worry about the implications of the panic attacks (for example, fear that the panic attacks mean that they are going to have a heart attack, faint, have a stroke, suffocate, go crazy, hurt someone, or experience some other catastrophe). A common effect of having panic attacks is that a person begins to avoid situations where they had a panic attack or avoid situations in which they believe having a panic attack is likely. This avoidance is referred to as agoraphobia. Often the situations that are most feared are ones in which escape would be difficult or in which help may not be readily available. Individuals may begin to stay in their house and avoid places such as the grocery store, buses, driving, elevators, churches, movie theaters, restaurants, and sporting events.
Panic disorder with agoraphobia has a lifetime prevalence rate of approximately 3.5%