Anxiety disorders are among the most common types of mental health issues in the United States, along with depression. Each year, anxiety disorders affect about 40 million adults, accounting for more than 18 percent of the population. Most anxiety disorders are treatable, but less than 37 percent of the people who need treatment receive it. In some cases, anxiety disorders can cause panic attacks that can manifest in psychological and physical symptoms.

What Is Anxiety?

Many people experience anxiety at least once in their lives. Most everyday anxiety comes with periods of high stress because of problems and challenges you experience in everyday life. But anxiety disorders involve persistent worries or fears that can get in the way of your relationships, career, and other aspects of your life. Anxiety disorders are more persistent than temporary worry.

They may be caused by real stress that you may have trouble getting past. But anxiety disorders may also come out of nowhere with no apparent cause or trigger. Generally, stress may become an anxiety disorder when it disrupts your life for long periods.

Several types of anxiety disorders can manifest with different symptoms. In some cases, these specific disorders are difficult to diagnose and require professional treatment. Examples of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Social anxiety disorder

These disorders may share some symptoms, but each requires a different treatment approach.

What Are Panic Disorders?

A panic disorder isn’t separate from anxiety. It’s a form of anxiety disorder that’s characterized by panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden onset of at least four of a dozen or so possible symptoms, which include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Chest pains
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Numbness
  • Dizziness
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of detachment
  • Fear of impending death

Panic disorders often involve a panic attack and subsequent anxieties that a panic attack might happen again. In some cases, the physical symptoms of panic might cause you to experience anxiety that you have something physically wrong with you.

Generalized anxiety disorder can also cause panic attacks. However, panic disorders cause recurring panic attacks that are followed by anxiety about the possibility of your next panic attack. Unlike general anxiety, panic disorders are centered on panic attacks that can have no apparent trigger.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), there are two other criteria for panic symptoms to qualify as a panic disorder. Substance use or abuse can’t cause panic attacks, and they also can’t be better explained by another mental health condition, such as post-traumatic stress.

Treating Anxiety And Panic Attacks

Anxiety and panic disorders can be complex, but they are treatable with professional care. Treatment for anxiety disorders can involve medication, psychotherapies, or a combination of both. In many cases, panic disorders can be chronic and may worsen if left untreated. Because panic attacks can cause some physical symptoms, it’s important to speak with your doctor to rule out serious medical issues, such as heart disease.

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