Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by regular and sudden panic attacks. It is normal to feel anxious and panic in response to stressful or dangerous stimuli and situations, but for people with panic disorder, the panic attacks occur regularly and at any time, often without any obvious trigger.

Prevalence

It is possible to have panic attacks but never develop panic disorder. Panic disorder is diagnosed less frequently in males compared to females, and it frequently starts in late adolescence or early adulthood.

People who have a family history of panic disorder are at increased risk of developing this condition. Environmental factors such as stress from an abusive relationship can also contribute to the development of panic disorder.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder?

People can suffer both physical and psychological symptoms while experiencing a panic attack, and these can last anywhere from a few seconds up to an average of ten minutes, or as long as thirty minutes in extreme cases. Examples of panic disorder symptoms include:

Physical symptoms

  • Palpitations (an awareness of the heart beating faster than usual)
  • Chest pain
  • A choking sensation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating or chills
  • Trembling
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling or numb hands
  • Nausea and/or stomach pain

Psychological symptoms

  • The fear and feeling of losing control
  • Fear that something terrible is about to happen
  • Fear leading to avoiding certain places where an attack has happened before
  • Fear about having another attack
  • Fear about dying during the next attack

Treatment for Panic Disorder:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of talking therapy, is the first-line of treatment for panic disorder. CBT teaches people who suffer from this condition to adopt different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to the feelings and sensations they can develop during a panic attack.

In addition to talk therapies, there are some medications that can be prescribed, however psychotherapy is the first-line of attack in most cases. Used as part of a successful treatment for panic disorder, an individual will learn how to think differently which will eventually translate to changes  in behavior and reactions to stimuli that had triggered attacks in the past.

Medications for Panic Disorder can include:

  • SSRIs and SNRIs – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are antidepressants prescribed as a treatment for depression, but some individuals also see relief from panic disorder symptoms. If selected as a treatment option, the doctor will cover the side effects and the expected timeframe before seeing results.
  • Beta-blockers – are not commonly prescribed for panic disorder, but they can target and bring relief for some physical symptoms like a rapid heart rate, which can occur before an attack.
  • Benzodiazepines – Sedative medications such as benzodiazepines are highly effective at rapidly reducing the symptoms of a panic attack. These medicines, however, are associated with adverse effects such as tolerance and dependence if taken for extended periods of time, so they must be used sparingly and with caution, and only for a short duration.

Panic Disorder complications:

Because the condition can create circumstances where typical everyday activities like work, shopping, driving, going to school, etc. become challenging or impossible, those with the disorder can feel ashamed or discouraged.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder:

People can suffer both physical and psychological symptoms while experiencing a panic attack, and these can last anywhere from a few seconds up to an average of ten minutes, or as long as thirty minutes in extreme cases. Examples of panic disorder symptoms include:

Physical symptoms

  • Palpitations (an awareness of the heart beating faster than usual)
  • Chest pain
  • A choking sensation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating or chills
  • Trembling
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling or numb hands
  • Nausea and/or stomach pain

Psychological symptoms

  • The fear and feeling of losing control
  • Fear that something terrible is about to happen
  • Fear leading to avoiding certain places where an attack has happened before
  • Fear about having another attack
  • Fear about dying during the next attack

Treatment for Panic Disorder:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of talking therapy, is the first-line treatment for panic disorder. CBT teaches people who suffer from this condition to adopt different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to the feelings and sensations they can develop during a panic attack.

Medications for Panic Disorder can include:

  • SSRIs and SNRIs – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are antidepressants prescribed as a treatment for depression, but some individuals also see relief from panic disorder symptoms. If selected as a treatment option, the doctor will cover the side effects and the expected timeframe before seeing results.
  • Beta-blockers – are not commonly prescribed for panic disorder, but they can target and bring relief for some physical symptoms like a rapid heart rate, which can occur before an attack.
  • Benzodiazepines – Sedative medications such as benzodiazepines are highly effective at rapidly reducing the symptoms of a panic attack. These medicines, however, are associated with adverse effects such as tolerance and dependence if taken for extended periods of time, so they must be used sparingly and with caution, and only for a short duration.

Panic Disorder complications:

Because the condition can create circumstances where typical everyday activities like work, shopping, driving, going to school, etc. become challenging or impossible, those with the disorder can feel ashamed or discouraged.

Sources HEALTHLINE – Attack Duration | NIH – Panic Disorder | MEDLINE – Panic Disorder | MAYO CLINIC – Symptoms | ADAA – Panic, Anxiety, and Depression | WEBMD – How to get help | HOPKINS MEDICINE – Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment