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Panic Disorder

Definition:

Panic disorder is a mental disorder in which a person suffers from frequent panic attacks. The panic attacks occur suddenly and without warning. Panic disorder is twice as common in women.

A panic attack is a sudden and severe sense of fear and anxiety. It displays both psychological and physical symptoms.

Causes:

There are several potential causes of panic disorder. There is a high possibility that the disorder may run in families.

The cause may also be environmental. Going through a traumatizing experience or having an excessively stressful lifestyle might result in panic disorder.

Another possibility is that panic disorder may be caused by biological factors in the brain. It is believed that those with panic disorder may have an imbalance of neurotransmitters in their brain.

Symptoms:

When you have a panic attack, it usually lasts about ten minutes and you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Racing heart or heart palpitations
  • Weakness
  • Sweating
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Shortness of breath or feeling like you can’t breathe
  • Chest pain
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Feeling like you’re choking
  • Nausea
  • Stomachache
  • Feeling like you’re about to die or lose control
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Feeling detached from your surroundings

In addition to having frequent panic attacks, you may also worry excessively about having another panic attack.

Diagnosis:

If you suspect that you have panic disorder, visit your doctor. They will perform a physical examination to rule out other conditions. If no physical condition is found, they will refer you to a mental health professional.

The mental health professional will ask you questions about your symptoms, their frequency, severity and duration. They will also talk to you about what triggers your symptoms and perform a psychiatric evaluation. Based on the information they gather about you, they will be able to determine whether or not you have panic disorder.

Treatment:

Treating panic disorder requires determination and commitment. Treatment methods have very high chances of preventing you from having panic attacks in the future and helping you lead a fulfilling life.

One treatment method is cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy helps you understand the emotions that trigger panic attacks and helps you see them realistically so as not to be afraid of them anymore.

Another treatment method is exposure therapy, where you are exposed to situations that may make you panic, but in a safe environment. This helps you find better ways to cope with anxiety and panic.

Your doctor may also recommend some relaxation or de-stressing techniques. These can help you become less stressed and reduce the frequency of panic attacks. You can also try doing some deep breathing whenever you feel you are about to panic.

Medications may be prescribed for panic disorder. However, they should never be used alone to treat panic disorder; they should accompany therapy.

Medications that can be prescribed include antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. They can help relieve some of the symptoms temporarily while you undergo therapy.

You can also help your treatment process by avoiding caffeinated drinks such as coffee or soda and by quitting smoking. Caffeine and nicotine can raise the risk of having a panic attack.


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