What is Panic Disorder?
Sudden episodes of anxiety, distress or discomfort, sometimes combined with troubling physical symptoms that can mimic heart, digestive or neurological disorders are referred to as panic attacks. During such attacks or spells, people suffering from Panic Disorder may experience unspecified fear – becoming frightened of fear itself and the feelings that accompany it. Panic Disorder is often associated with fear of situations such as crowds, driving, closed spaces, leaving home (agoraphobia) and others.
What are the symptoms of a panic attack?
Symptoms arise suddenly, progress rapidly to a peak, and usually diminish within five to 30 minutes. They may include:
- Uncontrollable fear
- Rapid heartbeat
- Lightheadedness, dizziness or shakiness
Individuals suffering from Panic Disorder also have a greater likelihood of experiencing agoraphobia (fear of leaving home or being alone away from home). Healthcare professionals also look for symptoms of depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts in combination with Panic Disorder.
Could you be suffering from Panic Disorder?
It’s best to work in partnership with a professional to determine whether you may be suffering from Panic Disorder. Your healthcare provider can guide the discussion with questions such as:
- Have you ever had a spell or attack when you suddenly felt frightened, anxious or very uneasy in a situation where most people would not feel afraid or anxious?
- In the past six months, have you had a spell or attack when for no reason your heart suddenly began to race, you felt faint, or you couldn’t catch your breath?
- Some people have such an unreasonably strong fear of being in a crowd, leaving home alone, traveling by bus, car or train, or crossing a bridge that they always get very upset in these situations and may avoid them altogether. Have you ever gone through a period when being in any of these situations frightened you?
How is Panic Disorder treated?
The symptoms of Panic Disorder are most commonly managed through the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or medications such as SSRIs. To learn more about CBT and SSRIs, visit Know your treatment options.