Experiencing a panic attack does not necessarily mean that you already have a panic disorder because there are cases where people suffer from panic disorder symptoms without further episodes or developing any form of complication. However, if you are experiencing more than one episode, which goes on, then you might be developing a panic disorder.
Panic disorder symptoms manifest through frequent and unexpected panic attacks and behaviour changes with persistent fear over the next episode of attack. These attacks are not limited to one specific situation as they may come from different causes. These episodes of attack cause severe emotional trauma on the person and possibly disruption to his normal daily function.
One panic disorder symptom is anticipatory anxiety. It makes the person feel overly anxious and nervous because he is already anticipating an attack to occur after a previous one. Such fear of fear may cause further episodes of panic attack.
Another panic disorder symptom is phobic avoidance. It makes the person avoid particular situations or places where a previous attack has occurred or where escape would not be easy. This kind of behaviour can lead to agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia is the fear of public places and open spaces. Recent studies show that agoraphobia develops in persons who suffer from panic attacks or panic disorder. This is due to their avoidance of places or getting into situations that may cause a panic attack. They would normally, avoid crowded places like shopping malls, parks, or stadiums. Some would avoid modes of transportation like buses, airplanes, or subways and even riding an elevator.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, persons with agoraphobia should avoid moving far away from home, going anywhere without a trusted companion, too much physical exhaustion, and places where escaping from an attack would be difficult like theatres or restaurants. If it is bad enough, they should also avoid driving, social gatherings, eating, or drinking alcohol, caffeine or certain medicines.
In a way, panic disorder symptoms maim a person because he thinks that it is safest to remain at home than to be anywhere else. This could prevent him from leading a full and productive life and this could hurt his personal self worth.