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Panic Disorder and Related Conditions

Similar and Often Co-Occurring Conditions

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Updated August 09, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

People with panic disorder are often more at risk to develop additional mental health conditions. Anxiety and mood disorders commonly co-occur with panic disorder. For example, research has determined that people with panic disorder also frequently experience issues with depression.

There are also other mental health disorders that are similar to panic disorder, but are considered to be completely separate conditions. For example, people with PTSD or social anxiety disorder frequently experience physical symptoms of anxiety that are similar to the symptoms of panic attacks. However, these disorders have their own diagnostic criteria distinct from panic disorder.

Listed here are some of the most frequently co-occurring and related disorders to panic disorder.

Panic Disorder Versus Social Anxiety Disorder

Like panic disorder, social anxiety disorder is another anxiety-related condition that involves feelings of apprehension and panic-like symptoms, such as shaking. However, social anxiety disorder differs from panic disorder in diagnostic criteria, symptoms, and avoidance behaviors.

People with social anxiety disorder are afraid of being in public or social situations in which they may possibly embarrass themselves or be judged by others. The person may feel lonely and yearn for the company of others, but will avoid social interaction out of fear of negative evaluation or humiliating themselves.  

Here you will find further information on social anxiety disorder and ways in which panic disorder and social anxiety disorder compare and contrast to each other:

Panic Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that can develop after a person has gone through or witnessed a distressing event. The disturbing event may be re-experienced through nightmares or recurring flashbacks. People with PTSD often avoid places and situations that remind them of what happened. Additionally, they may become easily startled and have difficulty concentrating.    

It is not uncommon for a person with PTSD to also be diagnosed with panic disorder. Panic attack-like symptoms can be brought on through memories, flashbacks, or dreams about the past traumatic event. For example, the person may experience trembling, shaking, and shortness of breath when they remember what happened.  

Learn about the similarities, differences, and treatment options for these two anxiety disorders:

Panic Disorder Versus OCD

Similar to panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a mental health condition characterized by excessive worry and fear. However, OCD is a separate diagnosis with distinct criteria that make this condition different from panic disorder.

The hallmark features of OCD are obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. A person with OCD may feel overwhelmed with persistent and disturbing thoughts, images, or urges. The compulsions are seen in ritualistic behaviors or mental acts that are performed because the person feels they must do them in order to stop a feared event or circumstance from happening. For example, a person may worry that an intruder is going to come into their home and hurt their family (obsession), which can lead them to frequently checking the locks on their doors (compulsion).

Find out more about the symptoms and treatment options for OCD and the ways in which OCD differs from panic disorder:

Panic Disorder and Depression

People with panic disorder are more vulnerable to potentially developing clinical depression. According to research studies, around half of those diagnosed with panic disorder will experience at least one episode of major depressive disorder in their lifetime. Depression is a serious and diagnosable mental health issue that has many challenging symptoms.

Some of the symptoms of depression include fatigue, weight changes, and feelings of worthlessness. The person may notice that they have been in a depressed mood for an extended period of time, but are often unable to identify what it is that is making them feel so down.

The good news is that depression is treatable. Similar to panic disorder, depression can be effectively treated through antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both of these treatment options.

Find out more about the signs and symptoms of depression, as well as treatment options that can be effective for both depression and panic disorder:

Substance Abuse

People with anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, are often at greater risk for having substance abuse issues. The substance is often used by the anxiety sufferer as a way to reduce fear and alleviate nervousness. Using a substance as a means to ease symptoms can lead to substance abuse issues. The person may become dependent on the substance, feeling that they need it to relax or function normally. A potential for tolerance can also develop, as the person finds that they require increasing amounts of the substance in order to feel its original effects.

Learn more about the dangers of substance abuse and anxiety:

Sources:

American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Cougle, Jesse R.;Feldner, Matthew T.;Keough, Meghan E.;Hawkins, Kirsten A.;Fitch, Kristin E. (2010). Comorbid panic attacks among individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder: Associations with traumatic event exposure history, symptoms, and impairment.  Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 24 (2), 183-188.

Gorman, J.M., & Coplan, J.D. (1996). “Comorbidity of depression and panic disorder.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 57, 34-41.

Rapee, R. M., Sanderson, W. C., McCauley, P. A., Di Nardo, P. A. “Differences in reported symptom profile between panic disorder and other DSM-III-R anxiety disorders” Behavioral Research & Therapy 1992 30: 45-52

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