Panic disorder is one of many anxiety disorders prevalent in the world today. A panic disorder is a condition where anxiety or panic attacks occur unexpectedly. There is typically no trigger or stressor that causes these anxiety attacks, yet it leaves people exhausted and scared.
Although for a person to have a panic disorder, they must experience panic attacks, they need to happen over a few weeks frequently. Currently, panic disorders affect over 2.7% of all adults in the U.S. It is one of the more rare anxiety disorders
Causes of Panic Disorders
Panic disorders have only been defined in recent decades. Due to this, there is a lack of information available to better understand them. Unlike an anxiety disorder, where there is a trigger or stressor, panic attacks can occur without any notice. The causes are hard to pin down.
For example, patients suffering from panic disorders may have a panic attack while simply sleeping, reading, or doing tasks that are not out of the ordinary.
From what is known about panic disorders, they are caused by:
- High levels of stress
- A previously diagnosed anxiety disorder
- Phobia of panic disorders
Symptoms of Panic Disorders
The symptoms vary depending on who is reacting to the disorder. Every person has an anxiety attack in a different way. However, while this is the case, all those with panic disorders have anxiety attacks. These attacks may result in:
- Heart racing
- Clammy hands
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Freezing in place
It is also important to note that these symptoms may last anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours.
Diagnosis of Panic Disorders
For a psychiatrist or general practitioner to diagnose panic disorders in their patients, they need to speak with them for months to ensure that what they have is a panic disorder. The psychologist will take their time to talk to the individual and ask questions about their panic attacks.
If they notice that there is no trigger and it happens more than twice, they can diagnose their patient with panic disorder. While this is the case, it does take time because psychologists need to be thorough. Since many of the symptoms of panic disorder are physical and appear similar to that of a heart attack, doctors need to also rule out any other health conditions that can cause heart palpitations and nausea.
They may use tests like a blood sample to look for any infections or X-rays and CT scans to look for abnormalities or inflammation of the digestive tract. Once a diagnosis has been made, the doctor and patient can treat and manage the condition.
Treatment/Management for Panic Disorders
The best way to treat or manage a panic disorder is to either take medications, go to therapy, or make lifestyle changes.
The most common type of medication that psychiatrists will prescribe is antidepressants. These medications typically come in pill form and work by balancing the neurotransmitters in your brain, which affect your mood and emotions. Since panic disorders are rooted in emotion and cause mood changes, the medication helps to soothe these symptoms.
While this is the case, there are also risks that come from taking medications like antidepressants. For example, some risks include digestive problems, suicidal thoughts, and increased anxiety. Medication is not suitable for everyone, but thankfully it is not the only solution.
Another solution or treatment to managing panic disorders is to undergo therapy. There are two common types of therapy: cognitive behavioral therapy (aka talk therapy) and group therapy. Talk therapy allows for the patient to go through their emotions in a private space and create an action plan with a medical professional to treat their condition. Group therapy focuses on sharing emotions with other individuals that have the same condition.
Patients with panic disorder may also change their lifestyle as to relieve and decrease the chances of a panic attack. For instance, lots of active exercise increases endorphins and dopamine levels. While this is not a complete cure, it can decrease the risk of a panic attack.
- Does panic disorder go away? Technically, panic disorder is a chronic mental health condition that does not go away with treatment. Instead, you can manage the symptoms and learn soothing techniques.
- Is panic disorder connected to any other disorders? Panic disorder is closely related to generalized anxiety disorder. Researchers have noted that individuals who were once receiving treatment for a generalized anxiety disorder can more easily develop a panic disorder.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!