Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes people to experience recurrent panic attacks or sudden episodes of intense fear. These episodes can occur randomly or in response to certain triggers, such as a fear of public speaking. Panic disorder can make it difficult to function normally and significantly impact your quality of life.
If you have panic disorder, there is help available. Treatment options include therapy and medication. With the right support, you can manage your panic disorder and regain your quality of life.
What is a panic Attack?
A panic attack is a sudden and unexpected episode of intense fear or anxiety. It is often accompanied by physical symptoms, including profuse sweating, palpitations, nausea, chest pain or tightness, feelings of choking or smothering, shortness of breath, hot flushes, dizziness, chills, and tingling sensations in the hands and legs.
Panic attacks are generally not life-threatening and often subside after 5 to 10 minutes. However, they can be very frightening and distressing for those experiencing them. Most people often report feeling like they are having a heart attack or dying.
Panic attacks can happen at any time, even during sleep, and are triggered by specific situations or events (such as excessive fear or phobias), but can also occur without any obvious trigger.
When Do Panic Attacks Become Panic Disorder?
For people with panic disorder, panic attacks happen frequently and can cause severe distress and impairment in functioning. These episodes are often random and unexpected. People with panic disorder often have a debilitating fear of having another panic attack. As a result, they will go out of their way to try and avoid situations that may trigger a panic attack.
This avoidance, in turn, greatly reduces their quality of life. To be diagnosed with panic disorder, an individual must have experienced recurrent panic attacks – accompanied by intense fear or worry about having another attack.
Causes of Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is thought to be caused by genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Evidence suggests panic disorder has a strong familial link, as the condition seems to run in families. It has also been linked to major life stressors or traumatic experiences, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss. Panic disorder may also be the result of certain medical conditions such as heart disease, thyroid problems, respiratory disorders, and drug abuse/withdrawal.
How is Panic Disorder Treated?
The most common treatment for panic disorder is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of psychological therapy that helps people to identify and change negative thought patterns that may be contributing to their anxiety and panic attacks.
Medication is also often used in combination with therapy to help manage symptoms. There are a number of different medications that may be prescribed for panic disorder, including antidepressants, anxiolytics, and beta-blockers.
Finally, self-care is important for managing panic disorder. Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and practicing proper stress management can all help reduce stress and anxiety levels and minimize the intensity and frequency of panic attacks.
Panic disorder is a serious mental illness that can cause significant distress and impairments in functioning – but with proper care and treatment, you can manage your disorder and regain your quality of life. If you think you have been experiencing constant panic attacks that seem to come out of nowhere, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment.