Panic Disorder

Panic Attacks
Alicia Allen 11:15


Panic disorder is a disorder in which a person suffers from panic attacks due to persistent fear. A panic attack is when a person experiences a sudden rush of fear that triggers other physical symptoms. These symptoms include:
• Increased Heart Rate (which can lead to heart palpitations)
• Chest and abdominal pain
• Dizziness and fainting
• Chills and/or hot flashes
• Tightness of the throat and trouble swallowing
• Shortness of breath (hyperventilation)
• Trembling and Sweating
• Headaches

The biggest fear although is the persistent fear of having another panic attack. Due to this fear many patients’ everyday lives suffer. They will avoid any place or situation that raises a chance for a panic attack. A panic attack lasts on average about 30 minutes, but can last for hours. As these symptoms onset could easily be mistaken for a heart attack or a stroke. They can make the patient fell as if they were losing control or dying. Increased thoughts of suicide are also common in panic disorder victims. It is important for a person to get accurate diagnosis of their symptoms due to the fact that the some symptoms are so severe.


Panic disorder is considered to be an Anxiety Disorder (a mental illness………..). Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States, as they affect 18% of adults. The disorder usually stays dormant or unnoticed until early adulthood, but that is not to say that it cannot be a problem before then.

Diagnosing panic disorder is difficult and may take time. Patients may go through several tests before being diagnosed with panic disorder; this is because all medical disorders must be ruled out before mental disorders are considered. The patient may undergo a physical exam, laboratory tests and a psychological evaluation during the diagnosis process. Some signs that are looked for in this process are;
• Repeated unpredicted panic attacks
• Fear of another panic attack episode (to where it affects your daily tasks)
• Avoidance of certain situations or places where you fear a panic attack may occur
• The panic attacks are not caused by anything such as substance abuse or another mental disorder such as a phobia

There is no exact cause of panic disorders; however several factors can contribute to the development of this disorder. Women are twice as likely to develop panic disorder. One very commonly studied cause is genetics. It is said that if one identical twin develops panic disorder that the other twin has a 40% chance of developing it also. Another cause is stress. Excess stress in a person’s life can make them more susceptible to panic attacks. Panic attacks could also be caused by abnormalities or changes in the brain. Research suggests that the abuse of alcohol and drugs increases a persons’ risk of developing panic disorder.

There are also several things that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing panic attacks as the result of a disorder. Undergoing a huge life change such as the death of a loved one or adding a new family member could cause a person to develop a lot of anxiety. Experiencing severe trauma such as sexual or physical abuse at an early age or even going through an accident or rape could lead to panic disorder. Living with panic disorder is not impossible.

Some researchers believe that panic attacks happen as a result of a dangerous situation. Your body will react by speeding up your heart rate and slowing your breathing as you are presented with danger. This is a result of your body’s fight or flight response reacting to the given situation. However this reaction by a persons’ body does not mean that he or she has panic disorder, it is simply a reaction to a dangerous situation.

Panic attacks are very hard to manage and live with on your own and more times than not get worse without treatment, therefore medical help is needed. Anti-anxiety medications are most commonly used to treat panic disorder. Medicines that work on your central nervous system to reduce anxiety as well as mild sedatives have also been successful. Some of these medications include benzodiazepines, phenelzine, and isocarboxazid. Working with a therapist on behavior has also been a helpful treatment. Hypnosis has been used in a few cases to treat anxiety. Alongside these medications and treatment options, practicing stress relief and relaxation is very useful in reducing anxiety. It has been suggested that alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants should be avoided as they may heighten symptoms. Understanding your symptoms and knowing how to prevent or lessen the likelihood of another panic attack can help a person cope with the diagnosis of this anxiety disorder.


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