What is Panic Disorder?
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder in which one suffers from sudden and unexplained attacks of extreme fear and loss of physical and psychological control. This person may feel in terrible danger, overwhelming embarrassment, or death. Panic attacks are sometimes precipitated by an anxiety-producing event but often seem to occur without any provocation and are all the more terrifying for that reason. Someone who experiences panic may attribute the attacks to circumstances and develop fears of certain situations in which panic attacks have previously occurred – phobias can develop.
Symptoms of Panic Disorder
Apart from intense, disabling fear or dread, people having a panic attack may experience a variety of physical symptoms, including:
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Hot flashes or chills
- Tingling or numbness
- Fear of dying
Panic attacks usually last several minutes to an hour, and since their symptoms mimic those of heart attacks, a person may end up in hospital emergency rooms. Once physical causes of the individual's distress have been ruled out by medical testing, the person may be diagnosed as having had a panic attack. If such attacks happen repeatedly, an individual is diagnosed as having panic disorder.
Unfortunately, panic attacks may be self-perpetuating. The distress experienced during a panic attack is so all-encompassing that the fear of having another attack may restrict a person's activities. Desperately fearing a recurrence of symptoms, particularly in public, this person may restrict their activities and even become housebound.
What Treatment is Available for Panic Disorder?
You may come to our facility already experiencing the effects of panic in your life. Our mental health therapists monitor your progress and intervene as needed. We will help you understand your symptoms and help you develop ways that you can manage life without triggering an anxiety or panic response. Treatment will include therapy, and we may also recommend anti-anxiety medications. Identifying the fears behind your panic may release you from the grip of these mental health symptoms and allow you to use skills to decrease symptoms related to panic disorder.
Panic disorder is typically treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy, including:
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
While several forms of psychotherapy can be helpful in relieving everyday anxieties, CBT, ACT, and EMDR have been found to be particularly effective in treating panic disorder.