Panic Disorder (With or Without Agoraphobia)

What is Panic Disorder (With or Without Agoraphobia)?

Panic disorder (PD) is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by sudden and recurrent episodes of intense fear and anxiety that may or may not be associated with specific triggers. These episodes are often accompanied by physical symptoms like shaking, shortness of breath, an increased heart rate, and chest pain. PD can also come with or without agoraphobia, which is a fear of public places or being away from home.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

Common symptoms of PD include:

  • Intense fear or discomfort in response to specific triggers or situations
  • Fear of having another panic attack or of the consequences of a panic attack
  • Difficulty breathing or a sensation of choking
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Chest pains
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Feelings of unreality or detachment
  • Fear or feelings of going crazy

Causes of Panic Disorder

The exact cause of PD is unknown, however, factors that may contribute to its development include genetics, biochemical imbalances in the brain, stress, and any type of trauma. People with a history of physical or sexual abuse, as well as those with a family history of PD, are more likely to develop the disorder.

Treatment for Panic Disorder

Treatment for PD typically consists of a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and medications. The aim of treatment is to help the person cope with their anxiety, learn relaxation techniques, challenge distorted thinking patterns, and gain control of their fear.

Medications that are used to treat PD include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Benzodiazepines

Coping With Panic Disorder

In addition to seeking professional help, there are several practical things that someone can do to cope with PD on their own. These include:

  • Identify and avoid triggers in order to prevent panic attacks.
  • Seek support from family and friends.
  • Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, and meditation.
  • Engage in regular exercise.
  • Prioritize getting adequate sleep.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Modify your diet to emphasize healthy foods.
  • Challenge irrational thoughts or beliefs that contribute to fear or anxiety.