Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder in which someone experiences unexpected panic attacks or fear regularly.
Panic disorder is diagnosed in people who experience spontaneous seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are very preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack.
Panic attacks occur unexpectedly, sometimes even when waking up from sleep.
Panic disorder usually begins in adulthood (after age 20), but children can also have panic disorder and many children experience panic-like symptoms (“fearful spells”).
Panic disorder can interfere a lot with daily life, causing people to miss work, go to many doctor visits, and avoid situations where they fear they might experience a panic attack. The interference is greatest when people also have agoraphobia, as well as panic disorder.
Many people don’t know that their disorder is real and highly responsive to treatment. Some are afraid or embarrassed to tell anyone, including their doctors and loved ones, about what they experience for fear of being considered a hypochondriac. Instead they suffer in silence, distancing themselves from friends, family, and others who could be helpful or supportive.
Everyone faces the sensations of anxiety and panic at specific times. It is a natural response towards stressful or aggressive conditions.
But when some people experience panic disorder, sensations of anxiety, stress, and panic periodically and at any time, often for no reason, known as Panic Disorder.
Causes of panic disorder
Panic disorder sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some family members have it while others don’t. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain, as well as biological processes, play a key role in fear and anxiety.
Some researchers think that people with panic disorder misinterpret harmless bodily sensations as threats. By learning more about how the brain and body functions in people with panic disorder, scientists may be able to create better treatments.
Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and environmental factors may play a role.
Symptoms of Panic Disorder
Continuous feelings of Anxiety is one of the symptoms of panic disorder. It is a sense of unease. It can range from mild to critical and can include feelings of distress and fear. The most hazardous form of anxiety is unexpected panic attacks.
When you experience unexpected panic attacks, you can start feeling worried and start to withdraw yourself from some circumstances like talking with unknown people or going for gatherings because you have fear of triggering another attack due to these situations.
It may lead you to live in fear of fear. Anxiety may add to your feeling of panic and cause you to have more Panic attacks.
A panic attack is a situation in which your body undergoes through a rush of intense physical and mental symptoms. It is another symptom of Panic disorder and may occur very quickly and without any reason.
A panic attack may be terrifying and distressing for you, it may depend upon the intensity of symptoms.
- feeling faint
- shaky limbs
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- a racing heartbeat
- hot flushes
- numbness or pins and needles
- a choking sensation
- a need to go to the toilet
- dry mouth
- feeling like you’re not connected to your body
- a churning stomach
- ringing in your ears
- a feeling of dread or a fear of dying
- a tingling in your fingers
Most panic attacks last within 5 and 20 minutes. Some of them may last up to an hour.
The number of attacks you may have will depend on your condition. If your condition is critical, your panic attacks may be unexpected in numbers. Some personalities have attacks once or twice in a month, while others have numerous times within a week.
Although panic attacks are scary, they’re not dangerous. Panic attacks never harm your body, and it is unlikely that you will be allowed to the hospital if you have one.
Most of these symptoms can also be an indication of other problems, so you may not always be encountering a panic attack. For example, you may have a running heartbeat if you have very low blood pressure. So be aware about these symptoms and consult with a specialist for better health.
When to get help
- Consult with a professional if you have been noticed signs of panic disorder.
- They can ask you to explain your symptoms, how frequent your symptoms are, and how long you have had them.
- They may also conduct a physical examination to rule out other situations that could be affecting your symptoms.
- Although it can sometimes be difficult to talk to someone else about your emotions, feelings, and personal life, try not to appear anxious or ashamed.
- You may be diagnosed with panic disorder if you encounter recurrent and unexpected panic attacks and attend at least a month of continuous worry or attention about having further attacks.
Treatments for panic disorder
Treatment tries to reduce the number of panic attacks you have and reduce your symptoms.
Psychological (talking) therapies and medication are the main treatments for panic disorder. Depending on your symptoms, you may need 1 of these treatments or a sequence of the 2.
Psychological therapies are generally used to treat panic disorders. Some commonly used psychological treatments that are beneficial in the reduction of panic attacks are—
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBTs help to focus on the importance of both thought as well as behavioural process to understand how to control panic attacks and anxiety. This therapy focuses on obstructive, inadequate and irrational thoughts that are responsible for the continuation of panic disorders.
You may discuss with a CBT therapist about your reaction and what you think about when you are facing a panic attack.
Your therapist may suggest some ways of changing your behaviour, like focus on breathing techniques that may help you keep calm during a panic attack.
Cognitive Behavior Modification
This therapy is about talking with yourself and knowing about your thinking process that leads you to panic attacks. This self-talk therapy focuses on identifying and changing your unwanted behaviour. Since in some cases panic disorders occur due to your thought process, in this therapy specialists encounter these thought processes and suggest to you some techniques that may help you to get rid of these thoughts.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
It is a cognitive behavioural technique that is effective for the treatment of various anxiety disorders. The CBTs used in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy are very powerful and show its effectiveness on every step.
Panic-Focused Psychodynamic Therapy (PFPP)
It is a panic disorder treatment psychotherapy based on some psychoanalytic concepts. The concept of this therapy is based on the categories of people defined according to the early human experience.
The painful emotions of humans are hidden in the unconscious mind or subconscious. Defense mechanism of the body resists these emotions for getting out of subconsciousness.In this type of therapy specialists try to bring these painful emotions into the conscious mind. This helps people in dealing with symptoms of panic disorder and eliminating or reducing associated behaviors.
The benefits of group therapy may include:
- Decreasing shame and stigma by providing experiences with other personalities who have similar symptoms and difficulties;
- Providing opportunities for modeling, inspiration, and reinforcement by other group members; and
- Provide a naturally-occurring exposure environment for patients who fear from getting panic in social situations.
Couples and Family Therapy
The relationship among family members is also affected by symptoms of panic disorder. In this type of therapy specialists talk with family members and suggest to them some methods to avoid symptoms of panic disorder.
Medications can also help in reducing symptoms of panic disorders. Many medications prove that it is another effective way to treat symptoms of panic disorder. The types of medications and their positive effects include
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
This type of medications are generally safe and first aid for the treatment of panic disorder. SSRIs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of panic disorder include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva) and sertraline (Zoloft).
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
These medications are another class of antidepressants. The SNRI venlafaxine (Effexor XR) is FDA approved for the treatment of panic disorder.
These sedatives are central nervous system depressants. Benzodiazepines approved by the FDA for the treatment of panic disorder include alprazolam (Xanax) and clonazepam (Klonopin). Benzodiazepines are generally used only on a short-term basis because they can be habit-forming, causing mental or physical dependence.
These medications are not a good choice if you’ve had problems with alcohol or drug use. They can also interact with other drugs, causing dangerous side effects.
If one medication doesn’t work well for you, your doctor may recommend switching to another or combining certain medications to boost effectiveness. Keep in mind that it can take several weeks after first starting a medication to notice an improvement in symptoms.
All medications have a risk of side effects, and some may not be recommended in certain situations, such as pregnancy. Talk with your doctor about possible side effects and risks.