Are there times when you have sudden attacks of overwhelming anxiety and fear that last for several minutes? Maybe her heart is beating fast, she’s breaking out in a sweat, and she feels like she can’t breathe or think clearly. Do these seizures occur at unpredictable times with no apparent trigger, causing you to worry that she could have another at any time?
If left untreated, panic disorder can lower your quality of life and cause difficulties at work or school. The good news is that it can treat that panic disorder. Learn more about the symptoms of the Panic disorder and how to find help.
What Is Panic Disorder?
People with panic disorder have sudden and frequent attacks. These attacks are characterized by a sudden wave of fear, discomfort, or a feeling of losing control, even when there is no real danger or clear trigger. Not everyone who has a panic attack will go on to have this disorder.
Panic attacks often include physical symptoms like tremors, tingling, or a rapid heartbeat, which may feel like you have a heart attack. Panic attacks can happen at any time. Many people with this disorder worry about having another attack. They could make significant changes in their lives to prevent it. Panic attacks can occur as often as several times a day or as little as a few times a year.
Panic disorder usually starts either in late adolescence or early adulthood. Women are more probably than men to develop this disorder.
Signs And Symptoms Of Panic Disorder
Symptoms of panic disorder that people may have:
- People may feel sudden and repeated panic attacks with overwhelming anxiety and fear.
- Also, feeling out of control or afraid of death or imminent doom during a panic attack.
- People may worry intensely about when the next panic attack will occur.
- Fear of going or avoiding places where they have had a panic attack in the past.
- Physical symptoms during a panic attack include strong or fast heartbeat, sweat, shaking chills, tremors, chest pain, tingling or numbness of the hands, difficulty breathing weakness or dizziness, and stomach pain or nausea.
Causes For Panic Disorder
Researchers have discovered that various parts of the brain and certain biological processes may play a role in fear and anxiety. Some researchers view panic attacks as a false alarm in which normal survival instincts are activated too often, too strongly, or a combination of the two. For example, a person with panic disorder might experience a pounding heart and assume she has a heart attack. Sometimes panic disorder may run in families, but no one knows why some family members have it and others don’t.
It could start a vicious cycle, causing a person to have panic attacks seemingly out of the blue, which is the hallmark of panic disorder. Researchers are studying how the brain and body connect in people with panic disorder to develop more specialized treatments. Researchers are also exploring ways that stress and environmental factors play a role in this disorder.
Panic Disorder Treated
The first step to effective treatment is getting a diagnosis, usually by a mental health professional. If you have symptoms of the Panic disorder, talk to your doctor or other health care provider. Your health care provider may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker. After discussing your medical history, you may have a physical exam to ensure you don’t have an unrelated physical problem causing these symptoms.
People usually get treatment for Panic disorder with talk therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. You can ask your doctor about the best treatment for you.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, a type of psychotherapy supported by research, is often used to treat panic disorder. This therapy teaches you different ways to think, behave, and react to various feelings that occur during or before a panic attack. The attacks may become less frequent once you learn to react differently to the physical sensations of anxiety and fear during a panic attack.
Exposure therapy is a common method of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on confronting the beliefs and fears associated with panic disorder to help you engage in activities you have been avoiding. Sometimes exposure therapy is used in conjunction with relaxation exercises.
Doctors and other health care providers may also prescribe medications that help treat panic disorder. There are different types of medications that can be effective in treating this disorder, including:
- SSRI and SNRI antidepressants;
- Anxiolytics or anti-anxiety medications.
SSRI and SNRI antidepressants are often used to treat depression, but they can also help treat symptoms of panic disorder. These medications can take several weeks to start working and can cause side effects, such as headaches, nausea, or trouble sleeping. These side effects are usually not serious for most people, especially if you start with a low dose and work your way up slowly. Talk to your health care provider about any side effects you may have.
Beta-blockers can help control some of the physical symptoms of panic disorder, such as rapid heart rate, sweating, and shakiness. Although health care providers do not generally prescribe beta-blockers for panic disorder, this medication may be helpful in certain situations leading up to a panic attack.
Benzodiazepines, a type of anti-anxiety sedative, can be very effective in quickly reducing the symptoms of a panic attack. However, some people develop a tolerance to these and need higher and higher doses to get the same effect. Some people become dependent on benzodiazepines, so your health care provider may prescribe them for only short periods if you need them.
Both psychotherapy and medications can take some time to work. Many try more than one medicine before finding the one that works best for them. Your health care provider can work with you to find the best medication, dosage, and length of treatment for you. Practicing a healthy lifestyle can also help fight the panic disorder. Make sure you get sufficient sleep and exercise, have a healthy diet, and turn to your family and friends you trust for support.