We all have moments of distress that cause us to panic. This is a common human experience and can often be triggered when we feel anxiety or fear. Sudden anxiety that lasts for several minutes that causes the heart to race, the body to sweat, or shortness of breath is described as panic. Some individuals may even think that they are having a heart attack. Panic is usually triggered by fear or anxiety, but those with panic disorder may experience these symptoms with no obvious trigger. These attacks are unpredictable and can happen frequently. Individuals who have continuous uncontrollable bouts of panic can be diagnosed with panic disorder. Panic disorder must be treated in order to reduce the risk of health impact or other mental health disorders. Panic disorder can seriously disrupt the lives of those who suffer for its debilitating symptoms.
What is panic disorder?
Individuals with panic disorder have repeated unpredictable attacks of fear that can last for a short period of time or longer. They are triggered by impeding thoughts of danger of just simply experiencing fearful thoughts in the moment. The body of individuals with panic disorder often reacts and the person can feel as if their life is ending. Panic disorder can strike its sufferers at any time and most have no idea of when the attacks will occur. The thought of having another can also bring on a panic disorder episode.
Panic disorder is extremely prevalent in women and often develops in teens or young adulthood. Most who suffer from panic disorder struggle to get support because they may feel a sense of shame for being fearful over scenarios that have never happened. If left untreated, individuals with panic disorder may reduce their normal activities to avoid triggering a panic episode. Some will eliminate daily task like driving, shopping, or going to work or school.
What causes panic disorder?
Panic disorder has no direct known cause, but many scientists believe the brain plays a significant role in why some individuals develop the disorder and others do not. Panic disorder can also be a generational disorder; however, some family members may have the disorder and others may not. Scientists strongly believe that the individuals who develop panic disorder have difficulty translating fear and anxiety in their brain. This misinterpretation causes the body to react in panic attacks due to its processing failure. Stress and trauma has also been known to trigger panic disorders. Individuals who have had a traumatic experience may encounter panic attacks anytime they have a trigger that signals the trauma. Left untreated the disorder can seriously hinder a victim’s healing and quality of life.
What are the signs and symptoms of panic disorder?
- Repeated anxiety and fear that is brought on suddenly
- Fear of impending doom or lack of control
- Pounding or racing heart
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Going numb
- Concern for future panic attacks
- Avoiding panic attack triggers
Treatment for Panic Disorder
There is help and support for individuals who suffer from panic disorder. Medical professionals should be consulted to rule out health issues and then a mental health professional should be put in place to begin therapy to address the symptoms. Some patients may even require the help of a psychiatrist to treat the disorder with medication.
Panic disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy and can teach individuals how to handle thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that arise when they have a panic disorder. Many individuals have been able to eliminate their attacks with the help of psychotherapy techniques.