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Can Panic Disorders Be Cured?

Panic disorders are frightening experiences, and the fear that they may happen again only adds to the problem. Unfortunately, panic attacks are unpredictable by nature. Some people have one and never experience another. Some people have a period of time where they experience panic and anxiety, and then it goes away. Panic attacks can also be caused by other mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder or chemical substances. While there is still a lot to learn about pain disorders, they can be treated. If you’re diagnosed with a panic disorder, you may be able to find treatment options that make your symptoms manageable and prevent them from lowering your quality of life. 

What is a Panic Disorder?

A panic disorder is a form of anxiety that’s characterized by sudden attacks of fear and worry that becomes overwhelming. It may also come with heart palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, and other physiological symptoms. In some cases, panic attacks occur without warning and with no apparent trigger, which can make you worry that another episode could strike at any moment. Because panic attacks can often cause physical symptoms, people that experience them for the first time may mistake them for a heart attack, which adds to their fear and worry. For some, panic attack symptoms peak within 10 minutes and start to go away. Others feel the most intense symptoms in the first 10 minutes and then experience lingering symptoms for hours. 

Even people that know they are having a panic attack may not be able to soothe themselves, despite the fact that their fear isn’t attached to any real or perceived danger. Because panic attacks are unpredictable, it can cause long-lasting anxiety symptoms  between attacks as well. Panic attacks can happen once or a few times before going away, but a panic disorder is characterized by recurrent attacks. Panic disorders also cause persistent worry and changes in behavior.

What Causes Panic Disorders?

The causes of panic disorders aren’t fully understood. However, it may have its roots in genetic factors because of the way it seems to run in families. Anxiety is often related to biological processes in specific parts of the brain, which is why some medications can help to treat anxiety by interacting with chemicals in your brain. Researchers are also looking at potential environmental factors and stress that may play a role.

How is a Panic Disorder Treated?

Panic disorders can be treated with both psychotherapy and medications, depending on your needs. One of the most common treatments involves cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you to learn coping mechanisms to avoid or deal with panic attacks. CBT for panic disorders often involves learning more about panic disorders and symptoms, monitoring your own symptoms, working on relaxation techniques, and rethinking your beliefs about panic attacks. The goal behind CBT is to better equip you to deal with anxiety and panic attacks in a way that alleviates the severity of the disorder. 
Panic disorders can also mean that you have a chemical imbalance in your brain. Medications can help correct those imbalances. Antidepressants like SSRIs are often used. Anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines may also be helpful. However, there are no magic bullets, so it’s important to work with your doctor to find the right medication and the right dose.

Sources

Mayo Clinic. (2018, May 4). Panic attacks and panic disorder. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021

Mayo Clinic. (2019, September 17). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/ssris/art-20044825

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, January). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Nicotine). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral

National Institute of Mental Health. (2018, July). Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

RxList. (2018, February 6). Benzodiazepines Drug Class: Side Effects, Types & Uses. Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/benzodiazepines/drug-class.htm

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