Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks can occur unexpectedly, even when nothing appears to be provoking them. They can also occur repeatedly, with both the intensity and frequency of the attacks varying widely.

During a panic attack, a person might experience racing heart, chest pain, shortness of breath, and an overwhelming sense of apprehension or fear. The sensations of terror typically peak within 10 minutes. Panic attacks usually pass within 20-30 minutes, although some can last longer.

In addition to having panic attacks, some people with panic disorder also experience persistent worry and fears about having another attack. This fear can lead to avoidance of certain activities and places, which can affect the person's life significantly. Some people with panic disorder also experience thoughts of "going crazy" or losing control.

Causes of Panic Disorder

It is not clear what causes panic disorder, but it is likely the result of a combination of biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Researchers believe that certain personality traits, such as neuroticism and sensitivity to stress and emotions, may make a person more likely to develop panic disorder.

Family history is also a risk factor. People with a close relative who has panic disorder are more likely to develop the condition. Additionally, stress can play a role. Life stresses, such as job loss or death of a loved one, can trigger a bout of panic disorder.

Treatment Options for Panic Disorder

Treatment for panic disorder typically includes psychotherapy and medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective form of psychotherapy for treating panic disorder. This type of therapy focuses on helping people to identify, understand, and cope with their fears. Medications can also be used to help reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common type of drug used. These medications help to regulate nerve transmission and reduce feelings of anxiety. Other types of drugs may also be used, depending on the individual's needs.

In addition to medication and psychotherapy, lifestyle changes can also help manage anxiety. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, relaxation techniques, and avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine, can all help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks.