Panic Disorder & Agoraphobia

“Each day I tried a new goal. Sometimes it took three or four tries to move forward, but I never went backward.”

Facing My Fears Head On

My story is much like others’ who suffer with panic disorder. Look at a list of symptoms and you’ll see mine.

My first panic attack occurred when I was 14. Later I would have them while driving on the interstate – so I stopped driving on the interstate. I had them at movie theaters or concerts – so I stopped going to those places. I stopped going to the mall, to the grocery store, or flying. I stopped going anywhere alone with my children because I was afraid of what might happen to them if I fainted or died while we were out. Eventually, I stopped going anywhere alone.

“Was I going to spend the next 40 years making clever excuses about why I was unable to participate in living, laughing, and being whole? ”

Determined to Recover

Rita ClarkAfter more than 20 years of not going to a grocery store, restaurant, or public place alone, not driving out of my safe area and not attending school functions for my children, I began my difficult recovery from panic disorder, agoraphobia, and social anxiety disorder.

“One day Rita read a newspaper article describing the symptoms of panic disorder and agoraphobia. At that moment she discovered she wasn’t crazy or weak.”

My Mother’s Journey

An evening spent playing bridge with other couples was always fun for Rita, but one time it became a nightmare. Dealing the cards, first her hands began to tremble, and then her body shook uncontrollably. Terrified, she ran to the bathroom where she fell to the floor crying. She didn’t understand what was happening to her, so she told her husband she was ill and needed to go home.

“I felt a tingling sensation spread throughout my chest. A sudden fear of death seemed to come from nowhere.”

A Traumatic Trigger of Panic

My name is Jacob. I'm 20 years old and this is my story:

It all started on what seemed like a regular day in my sophomore year of college. I went to all my classes and got back to my dorm room at about 5 p.m. When I checked to see if my roommate was in yet, I found him lying on the floor by his bed. He had died of a heart attack at 20 years old.

“It was so embarrassing to have to tell my friends about my problem, but I knew it had to be done.”

A Normal Kid

My name is Jordan. I am 11 years old.

About one year ago, I began experiencing a feeling of terror and panic during everyday situations. I was scared of everything, from going out to eat to going to a friend’s house. I told my parents, and we thought it might just be that a lot was going on. So we waited. As months went on, the anxiety and panicking didn’t get any better, and everything started to go downhill. I sort of figured I was going to be like this forever.

“It took a long time for me to accept that panic disorder is something I must live with. It is simply a part of my life.”

Speaking Up for Others

Looking back, I can see that I had symptoms of an anxiety disorder even as a small child. I remember going for weeks at a time waking up, unable to go back to sleep. Then, as if by magic, I would go back to sleeping normally.

“I spent the next 20 years trying to avoid another panic attack. Unfortunately, avoiding fear also meant reinforcing it. ”

My Anxiety Rescue

Fear is an unseen enemy that can emotionally cripple and turn your life into a nightmare unless you learn, as I did, how to stage your own “anxiety rescue.”


Screening for Panic Disorder

If you suspect that you might suffer from panic disorder, answer the questions below, print out the results and share them with your health care professional.

Are you troubled by the following?


Like other anxiety disorders, panic disorder and agoraphobia can be treated.

Most people find significant improvement with professional care. Treatment success varies among people. Some may respond to treatment after a few months, while other people may need more than a year. Treatment can be complicated if a person has more than one anxiety disorder or suffers from depression or substance abuse, which is why it must be tailored to the individual.

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ADAA is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, OCD, PTSD, depression, and related disorders and to improving the lives of all people who suffer from them.