Complications of panic disorder 

Panic disorder is a treatable condition, but to make a full recovery it's very important you seek medical help as soon as possible.

This is because treatment for panic disorder is much more effective if it's given at an early stage.

Left undiagnosed and untreated, panic disorder can become a debilitating and isolating illness. It can also increase your risk of developing other psychological conditions.

Agoraphobia and other phobias

Agoraphobia is a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult, or help wouldn't be available if things go wrong.

If you have agoraphobia, leaving home, going out in public and travelling alone can cause intense anxiety. Many people with agoraphobia avoid everyday activities because of their phobia.

Agoraphobia is one of the conditions that can develop alongside panic disorder. People with panic disorder can develop agoraphobia because of their fear of having a panic attack in a public place.

You may worry that a panic attack in a public place will be embarrassing, or that you'll have difficulty getting help if you need it. You may also worry about public places that you would have difficulty leaving, such as a train, if you were to have a panic attack.

If you have agoraphobia, you may find it difficult to leave the house, particularly if you're not with a trusted family member or a friend.

If you have panic disorder, you may also develop other fears and phobias, which can often seem irrational. For example, you may start to worry about a particular object or action that triggers your attacks and become fearful of those things.

Children

Panic disorder is more common in teenagers than in younger children.

Panic attacks can be particularly debilitating for children and young people. Severe panic disorder may affect their development and learning. The fear of having a panic attack may stop children from going to school and engaging in a social life. They may also find it difficult to concentrate on their schoolwork.

Diagnosing panic disorder in children is usually a case of taking a detailed medical history and carrying out a thorough physical examination to rule out any physical causes for the symptoms.

Screening for other anxiety disorders may also be needed to help determine what's causing your child’s panic attacks.

Panic attacks in children are often dramatic events, including screaming and crying and an increased breathing rate (hyperventilation).

If your child displays the signs and symptoms of panic disorder over a prolonged period of time, your GP may refer them to a specialist for further assessment and treatment.

The specialist may recommend a course of psychotherapy for your child, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Drug and alcohol misuse

Some studies have shown that conditions that cause intense anxiety, such as panic disorder, can also increase your risk of developing an alcohol or drug problem.

The side effects or withdrawal symptoms of both prescribed medication and illegal drugs can increase the symptoms of anxiety.

Smoking and caffeine can also make your anxiety symptoms worse, so you should try to give up smoking (if you smoke) and limit the amount of caffeine in your diet.


Driving

Your driving ability may be affected if you have panic disorder.

You're legally obliged to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) about a medical condition that could have an impact on your driving.

See GOV.UK for further information about driving with a disability or health condition.

Page last reviewed: 15/08/2014

Next review due: 15/08/2017