What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by recurring and unexpected panic attacks. These attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear or discomfort that reach a peak within minutes. The episodes of intense fear or discomfort can strike at any moment, making college life particularly challenging for affected students. The pressures of academic demands, social expectations, and newfound responsibilities can exacerbate symptoms of panic disorder, leading to increased stress and impairment in daily functioning.

Panic attacks can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, and feelings of impending doom or loss of control.

Understanding Panic Disorder at College

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder marked by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. These school panic attacks are acute episodes of overwhelming fear or discomfort that escalate rapidly, reaching a peak within minutes. Individuals experiencing panic attacks often describe feeling a sense of impending doom, accompanied by physical symptoms like rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, and a fear of losing control or dying. While college panic disorder can feel overwhelming, it’s essential to recognize that effective treatments are available to help individuals regain control over their symptoms and live fulfilling lives.

Symptoms of School Panic Disorder

  1. Recurrent and unexpected panic attacks.
  2. Persistent worry or preoccupation with the possibility of having another panic attack.
  3. Avoidance behaviors aimed at preventing panic attacks, such as avoiding specific places or situations.
  4. Significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Causes of Panic Disorder

While the exact cause of panic disorder remains elusive, several factors are believed to contribute to its development, including:

  1. Genetics: There is evidence to suggest that genetics play a role in predisposing individuals to panic disorder. A family history of anxiety disorders can increase the likelihood of developing the condition.
  2. Brain Chemistry: Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, may contribute to the onset of panic disorder.
  3. Environmental Factors: Traumatic life events, chronic stress, and major life transitions can trigger the onset of panic disorder in susceptible individuals.
  4. Psychological Factors: Certain personality traits, such as a tendency towards negative thinking or heightened sensitivity to stress, may increase the risk of developing panic disorder.

 Particularly in colleges, panic disorders can be driven from: 

  1. Academic Pressure: The demands of college coursework, exams, and deadlines can trigger stress and anxiety, exacerbating symptoms of panic disorder and interfering with academic performance.
  2. Social Isolation: Fear of experiencing panic attacks in social settings may lead students to withdraw from social activities, making it difficult to form connections and build a support network.
  3. Financial Stress: Concerns about tuition, student loans, and financial instability can contribute to feelings of anxiety and exacerbate symptoms of panic disorder.
  4. Lack of Support: Many college students with panic disorder may struggle to access appropriate mental health resources and support services on campus, further exacerbating feelings of isolation and distress.

Treatment Options

Fortunately, school panic disorder is a highly treatable condition, and several effective treatment options are available:

  1. Psychotherapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the gold standard in treating panic disorder. CBT helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with panic attacks.
  2. Medication: Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), are commonly prescribed to alleviate symptoms of panic disorder. Benzodiazepines may be used on a short-term basis to provide immediate relief during acute panic episodes.
  3. Lifestyle Modifications: Adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, stress management techniques, and avoiding caffeine and stimulants, can help reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks.
  4. Seek Support: Reach out to our licensed counselors who can provide guidance and assistance 


Panic disorder at School can be a debilitating condition, but with the right support and treatment, individuals can learn to manage their symptoms effectively and regain control over their lives. If you or someone you know is struggling with panic disorder, it’s essential to seek help from a qualified mental health professional.

At the Virtual Care Group, our licensed  counselors offer convenient, accessible, and efficient support for students, faculty, and staff navigating mental health challenges. Schedule a no-obligation demo today!