What’s Wrong with Me When I Panic?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From a 16 year old girl in the U.S.: I’m having a lot of trouble dealing panicky situations. The other day my sister and I were driving, I was driving the car and we got into a really heated argument. I started to Panic but even after I had already parked the panic hadn’t subsided. I sat in the car for 15 minutes unable to stop crying or to breathe normally. Now whenever I think about the situations I start uncontrollably crying again, hyperventilating and convulsing like I’m going to vomit even though I never do. Is this just a normal reaction or is it something more severe? I’m just not sure what to do or what’s wrong, if its a serious issue I’ll talk to my doctor but I’m not sure if it is.

A: What you are describing is a classic panic disorder. It’s not “normal,” but it’s a usual expression of this disorder. Yes, it’s a serious issue. No, it probably won’t go away on its own. Once a panic disorder gets going, people get so afraid of feeling that way again that they can inadvertently recreate it.

The treatment of choice for panic disorder is cognitive-behavioral therapy. The therapist will help you learn how to desensitize yourself from the situations that trigger you and will teach you concrete skills for regaining control of your emotions. Please ask your doctor for a referral to a therapist who specializes in anxiety issues.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Jul 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). What’s Wrong with Me When I Panic?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/07/01/whats-wrong-with-me-when-i-panic/