Panic disorder is the re-occurrence of panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden feelings of fear and lack of control that arise without reason or warning. They may occur a few times a year or several times a day.
What are the symptoms of panic disorder?
Symptoms of panic disorder are largely physical. These include chest pains, increased heart rate and difficulty breathing, dizziness, and a feeling of losing control. Some individuals also experience sweating, shaking, a choking sensation, nausea, chills, a pins and needles sensation, or feelings of depersonalization.
What causes panic disorder?
The cause of panic disorder is not well-defined. There is some evidence that it is linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain or genetic factors. Specifically, it is believed to occur in patients that do not have the proper mechanisms in place to prevent increases in serotonin, and those with a low level of endogenous opioids.
Who is typically affected?
Most individuals with panic disorder are women in their 20s.
How long does panic disorder last?
Like with some other anxiety disorders, they will most likely have it for their entire lives.
What other conditions commonly occur with panic disorder?
The presence of this disorder also increases the risk for several medical conditions including cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal issues.
What treatments are available for panic disorder?
Like with many other anxiety disorders, there are pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments available. Non-pharmacological treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy. Breathing training and techniques may also improve panic attack symptoms and prevent hyperventilation. Relaxation and stress-reduction can reduce symptoms which increase risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Common pharmacological treatments include antidepressants, specifically SSRIs, and benzodiazepines.