Some of the worst things in my life never happened – Mark Twain

Panic Disorder

Panic Attacks / Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by spontaneous and repeated panic attacks. A Panic Attack is an unexpected, sudden and overwhelming sense of intense fear that lasts for several minutes or longer, when there is no real danger or apparent cause.

Symptoms of Panic Attack

A Panic Attack typically reaches peak severity within 10 minutes or less, at which time symptoms begin to subside. People having panic attacks may mistakenly think they are having a heart attack or stroke. Full-blown panic attacks include at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, and/or choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or stomach pain
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or faintness
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Feelings of unreality (derealization) or detachment (depersonalization)
  • Fear of “going crazy” or losing control
  • Fear of dying

In addition, people with Panic Disorder also experience continued concern about future panic attacks, or they make significant changes in their behavior that they associate with the panic attack.

Risk Factors for Panic Disorder

The exact cause of Panic Disorder is not fully known, but several factors — including personality, genetics, and environment or experiences — appear to contribute to its development.

  • Genetics: Having parents or other family members with Panic Disorder can increase the likelihood that a person will develop this disorder.
  • Environment / Experiences: Trauma and stressful events, such as abuse, the death of a loved one, divorce, changing jobs or schools, may contribute to Panic Disorder.
  • Major Depression. A person who suffers from clinical depression may be more prone to Panic Disorder.

Treatment for Panic Disorder

Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as “talk therapy” or counseling, is a vital component of treating panic disorder. There are a variety of specific psychotherapeutic approaches that can be explored in the treatment of panic disorder, including:

Medication does not cure panic disorder but can help relieve its symptoms. Antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medications may be used to treat the symptoms of panic disorder. Every individual will react to various medications in their own way, and several different medications, or combinations of medications, may be tried before finding one that improves symptoms with manageable side effects.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms and wish to seek treatment for Panic Disorder, please contact me for an evaluation.

Also see Anxiety Disorders & Fears »