More than six million people experience panic disorder during their lifetime, and there is no typical victim. According to the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, panic disorder may begin in childhood or before 25 years.
While it is not clear what causes the disorder, there is a strong suggestion that the tendency is inherited and is hereditary. At one time, researchers believed panic disorder was primarily due to psychological problems. Experts now believe that genetic factors or changes in body chemistry, in combination with the circumstances or stressful events, play a fundamental role.
According to the Association of Psychology, every panic attack reaches the highest peak in about 10 minutes. Sometimes the attacks are repeated in groups of up to an hour after the initial attack, with the associated fear about the possibility of another attack. Subsequent attacks can occur for days or even weeks later.
This element of fear is called anticipatory anxiety. People are afraid of having another attack while performing the same activity or be in the same situation as when there was a previous attack. anticipatory anxiety can be so extreme that people move away from the outside world for fear that another attack was launched.
For example, if an attack occurred while driving on the highway, a person may fear that the repetition of this type of driving causes the panic repeat again. This may be limited to driving only on secondary roads. If the panic experienced during sleep in bed in the dark, a person can sleep on the couch with the light on to try to prevent another attack.
If an attack is lived out as he walked through a park or shopping in a mall, you can produce a fear of having a future attack in public. This can lead to the complete avoidance of any external activity, which can lead to a condition known as agoraphobia – the inability to go beyond known and safe surroundings because of intense fear and anxiety.
While a lot of research has been done on panic disorder, the exact cause is unclear. Research suggests that panic disorder is more common in women than in men.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), panic disorder can also occur with other disorders. Depression and substance abuse commonly occur simultaneously with panic disorder. About 30 percent of people with panic abuse alcohol and 17 percent of drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. This abuse can be attributed to failed attempts by a person with panic disorder to alleviate the distress and suffering caused by their condition.
The greatest advances have been made through research funded by the NIMH to produce effective treatments to help people with panic disorder. Treatment includes medications and a type of psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Appropriate treatment by an experienced professional can reduce or prevent attacks in 70 to 90 percent of people with panic disorder. Most people show significant progress after a few weeks of treatment. Relapses can occur, but often can be effectively treated.
The symptoms of panic disorder
There are more than a dozen physical and emotional sensations that a person may experience during a panic attack. Not everyone will experience all of them, and people with panic disorder may report different sensations when having an attack.
If not recognized and treated, panic disorder can be devastating, because it can interfere with relationships, school work, employment and normal development. It is not uncommon for a person with panic disorder to experience a feeling of anxiety, even between attacks. People with panic disorder begin to avoid situations where they fear that an attack may occur or situations where help may not be available. This happens with adults and children with panic disorder.
For example, a child may be reluctant to go to school or be separated from their parents. Not all children who have separation anxiety because they do panic disorder, and can be very difficult to diagnose. But when evaluated and treated with a combination of medication and adequate cognitive behavioral therapy, children with panic disorder often respond well. It is recommended that a doctor or pediatrician first evaluate children and adolescents with suspected panic. If any other disease or physical condition is a cause of symptoms, you obtain a comprehensive evaluation by a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
Brain scans and blood tests are not effective in the diagnosis of panic disorder.
Asked questions that can help determine whether an individual is experiencing panic disorder. These include:
Are you concerned about the repeated and unexpected “attacks” intense fear or discomfort, for no apparent reason?
During these attacks, it is what you experience at least four of the following symptoms?
- beating heart
- tremors or shaking
- short of breath
- chest pain
- nausea or abdominal discomfort
- legs “Jelly”
- a feeling of unreality or being detached from yourself
- fear of losing control
- go mad
- affraid to die
- numbness or tingling sensation or hot flashes or chills
Are you afraid to places or situations from which escape might be difficult or get help, like a room full of people or traffic jam?
Do you have a fear of not being able to travel without a chaperone?
For at least a month after an attack , has persistent sense:
worrying about having another attack?
worrying going crazy?
Does it have to change their behavior to adapt to the attack?
In short, panic disorder results from having panic attacks. Panic attacks are episodes that come “out of nothing”. They show their beaks in a few minutes and cause feelings of terror and frightening physical symptoms.
People often are convinced during the attack are dying and describe a panic attack as the most painful experience I’ve had. As a natural response, people fear the next attack and tend to avoid places or situations where panic attacks have had.