Panic disorders are frightening mental health illnesses. They are a type of anxiety disorder that can cause intense feelings of fear and even some physical symptoms. Panic disorders are relatively common, but if they’re left untreated, they can lead to severe conditions such as chronic insomnia, anxiety, and isolation. But who can be affected by these serious mental health disorders?
A panic disorder is anxiety characterized by recurrent panic attacks, which are episodes of heightened fear and anxiety. A panic disorder is distinct from other mental health conditions that may cause panic attacks.
For example, post-traumatic stress can cause symptoms of panic and anxiety that don’t qualify as a panic disorder. Likewise, certain psychoactive drugs and substance use disorders can cause panic attacks, but that doesn’t necessarily point to a panic disorder. Still, panic disorders can occur alongside other mental health disorders, which can make it difficult to diagnose and treat.
Panic disorders can lead to several complications that can lower one’s quality of life. Panic attacks may be followed by long-lasting anxiety that another one will occur at any moment.
Panic disorders are likely caused by several different factors, including genetics, stress, and environmental factors. Like other mental health disorders, panic disorders may be complex, requiring sophisticated treatment options to effectively address. However, they can be successfully treated and managed.
Treatment may involve pharmaceutical options like antianxiety or antidepressant drugs or psychotherapy. In many cases, the best treatment is a combination of both.
In any given year, up to 3 percent of American adults experience panic disorders. Panic disorders can happen to anyone, and there doesn’t seem to be any particular group that’s immune to it. Most people first start to experience panic attack symptoms in their 20s, but they can also happen to children.
Panic in children is characterized by fearful spells, sometimes with no clear cause. Among adults, the disorder is twice as likely to happen to women than men. Many people with panic disorders go undiagnosed or untreated, which means that it’s challenging to know the most accurate demographics of this disorder.
If you believe you might be struggling with any mental health disorders, it’s usually helpful to speak to a doctor or therapist to get more information. Anxiety disorders are very common and happen to millions of people each year.
If you have experienced a panic attack or anxiety recently, options might be available to help address and cope with symptoms. If you’ve gone through several panic attacks that don’t seem to have a psychological or chemical cause, you could have a panic disorder that needs to be addressed.
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National Institute of Mental Health. (2018, July). Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml