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What Is Acute Panic Disorder?

Do you commonly have sudden bouts of anxiety attacks or experience an overwhelming fear that lasts what feels like an eternity? Perhaps you experience a pounding heart, feel as though you can’t breathe, or you start to sweat profusely. Maybe these attacks are unpredictable with no apparent trigger, which causes you to worry about it happening again.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s possible that you have an anxiety disorder known as panic disorder. If left untreated, the condition will lower your quality of life due to fears that you may have other mental health disorders. It may also cause issues at school or work and social isolation.

What Is Panic Disorder?

Those who are struggling with panic disorder will have sudden and repeated attacks of fear that last for an extended period. These are known as panic attacks, which are characterized by a fear of disaster or of losing control even when no danger is imminent. 

You may feel like you’re having a heart attack, and these may occur at any time. Many of those with panic disorder will continuously worry and dread the fact that they may have another attack An individual with panic disorder may feel a sense of shame or discouragement when they cannot carry out their daily routine, such as going to the grocery store, attending a class, showing up for work, or driving. 

Panic disorder typically appears in the late teens or early adulthood. Unfortunately, more women will experience the condition than men, and not everyone who deals with panic attacks will develop panic disorder.

What Are the Causes Behind Panic Disorder?

While panic disorder is sometimes hereditary, researchers don’t have an understanding as to why some family members will develop the condition, and others won’t. Studies have shown that several parts of the brain play a role in anxiety and fear. Some research indicates that individuals with panic disorder misinterpret harmless bodily sensations as threats. Learning more about the brain of those struggling with the condition will help answer the question of better treatment options. Doctors also look for ways that stress and environmental factors play a role. 

Signs and Symptoms of Panic Disorder

Someone experiencing panic disorder may encounter these symptoms:

  • Having sudden or otherwise repetitive panic attacks that include overwhelming anxiety and fear
  • Feeling out of control or having a fear of death or impending doom
  • Sweating, racing heart, trembling, chills, chest pain, numb hands, stomach pain, and nausea
  • Worrying about when the next attack will occur
  • Avoiding places where panic attacks have previously occurred

How Is Panic Disorder Treated?

You must speak with your primary care physician about your symptoms. The doctor must do an exam and ask about your health history to ensure there are no other issues causing your symptoms. Panic disorder is generally treated with:

  • Psychotherapy (cognitive behavioral therapy)
  • Medication
  • Combination of both

Doctors typically use different medications to treat panic disorder, which include:

Sources

Anxiety Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

Panic Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/panic-disorder.shtml

Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/panic-disorder-when-fear-overwhelms/index.shtml

Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) Information. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitors-ssris-information

Benzodiazepines. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/benzodiazepines

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