Panic Disorder: What You Need to KnowMost people may feel anxiety or panic in certain situations. That’s normal and expected. Who doesn’t feel a pang of panic when they need to speak in public or when they’re in some unfamiliar situations? With a panic disorder, all of this is amplified and the symptoms can be debilitating.

Panic disorder affects around 2-3 percent of the population. It disrupts everyday life and can make people avoid triggering events. It is a genuine disorder that there is a lot to learn about.

Here is more on panic disorder: how it happens, why it happens, symptoms, treatment solutions, and more.

What is Panic Disorder?

Some people have panic attacks within their lifetime. These attacks occur without warning and go away just as abruptly. Yet, those with a panic disorder do not simply have a panic attack once in a while or a couple of times in their lifetime. Instead, these panic attacks are more frequent. This causes the person to live their life fearful of another attack — and this affects their quality of life.

What are the Symptoms of Panic Disorder?

The symptoms of panic disorder include:

  • Shaking or trembling
  • Feeling detached or that life isn’t real
  • Worries over impending dangers
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Fear of death
  • Fear of a loss of control
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
  • Rapid, pounding heart rate
  • Chills
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Abdominal cramping

People who suffer from panic disorder never know when another panic attack might occur. The symptoms may be over within a few minutes, but the attack can leave the person drained emotionally and psychically.

What Causes Panic Disorder?

According to the Mayo Clinic:

It’s not known what causes panic attacks or panic disorder, but these factors may play a role:

  • Genetics
  • Major stress
  • A temperament that is more sensitive to stress or prone to negative emotions
  • Certain changes in the way parts of your brain function

Panic attacks may come on suddenly and without warning at first, but over time, they’re usually triggered by certain situations.

Some research suggests that your body’s natural fight-or-flight response to danger is involved in panic attacks.

For example, if you saw something coming at you like a wild animal or an unfamiliar person, then it would be normal for your body to act on instinct. This includes things like your breathing changing or your heart pounding. All of that is normal. This is what happens during a panic attack as well. The difference is that there is no wild animal or sketchy looking character causing the problem.

There are, of course, risk factors that may contribute to triggering panic disorder. These include:

  • Genetics — a family history of panic attacks
  • History of abuse — a history of sexual abuse or childhood abuse
  • Stress — a major life event like the loss of a loved one or a serious illness
  • Trauma — certain traumatic events, for example, a sexual assault or a natural disaster
  • Changes — major life disruptions such as an accident or personal assault
  • Environmental factors — these include excessive caffeine or tobacco use

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Who is Likely to Get Panic Disorder?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

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”)…About 2-3% of Americans experience panic disorder in a given year and it is twice as common in women than in men.

How are Panic Attacks Prevented?

There is not a specific fix-all for preventing a panic attack. Yet, there are a few things to keep in mind.

One way to help prevent some of the panic attacks is to seek treatment and stick with it. Sure, it may take time, but alleviating some of the symptoms can allow a person to start living a better life with less constraints.

What is the Treatment for Panic Disorder?

There are a variety of treatment methods that may minimize some of the panic attacks and help those with panic disorders.

One of the most successful treatment plans includes CBT, which is cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a treatment plan that focuses on helping someone change their thought pattern. It allows them to find new types of behavior that is conducive to fewer panic attacks.

Antidepressants are sometimes recommended along with cognitive behavioral therapy. These help improve panic attack symptoms and minimize their severity, according to American Family Physician.

At Transformations, we have treatment options that are customized for each person. Along with cognitive behavioral therapy, we also offer treatment options such as:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Experiential treatment
  • Holistic treatment
  • Medication-assisted treatment

We even offer EDMR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. EDMR is beneficial for those who have frightening memories triggered by events in their past.

Complications of Panic Disorder

While a panic disorder is not something that affects your longevity, it can disrupt your life. If you leave the disorder untreated, some of its complications include:

  • The potential of developing specific phobias, for example, agoraphobia (the fear of leaving your home)
  • Financial issues
  • Avoiding any and all social activities
  • Persistent medical care needed
  • Issues at school or work
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Depression, anxiety disorders and other psychiatric disorders
  • Increased risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts

This is why it is so important to seek a professional’s help if you or someone you love has a panic disorder or frequent panic attacks.

Panic disorders can be treated, and treatment helps minimize the symptoms.

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