Anxiety & panic disorders are anxiety issues where you regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear. Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and panic at certain times. It’s simply a natural response to stressful or dangerous situations.
Symptoms of anxiety include worry, distress, and fear. In an anxiety attack, people may feel fearful, apprehensive, may feel their heart racing or feel short of breath, but it’s very short-lived, and when the stressor goes away, so does the anxiety attack. A panic attack on the other hand doesn’t come in reaction to a stressor. It’s unprovoked and unpredictable.
Causes of Anxiety & Panic Disorders
The cause is unknown. Genes may play a role. Other family members may have the disorder. But panic disorder often occurs when there is no family history.
Panic disorder is twice as common in women as it is in men. Symptoms often begin before age 25 but may occur in the mid-30s. Children can also have panic disorder, but it is often not diagnosed until they are older.
Symptoms of Anxiety & Panic Disorders
Sense of impending doom or danger
Fear of loss of control or death
Rapid, pounding heart rate
Trembling or shaking
Shortness of breath or tightness in the throat
Dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness
Numbness or tingling sensation
The feeling of unreality or detachment
Treatment of Anxiety & Panic Disorders
Treatment for panic disorder focuses on reducing or eliminating the symptoms. This is achieved through therapy with a qualified professional and in some cases, medication. Therapy typically involves cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy teaches to change thoughts or thinking processes and actions so that you can understand the attacks and manage fear.
Panic disorder is often a chronic (long-term) condition that can be difficult to treat. Some people with this disorder do not respond well to treatment. Others may have periods when they have no symptoms and periods when their symptoms are quite intense. Most people with panic disorder will experience some symptom relief through treatment.
Exams and Tests
Many people with panic disorder first seek treatment in the emergency room. This is because the panic attack often feels like a heart attack.
The health care provider will perform a physical exam and a mental health assessment.
Blood tests will be done. Other medical disorders must be ruled out before panic disorder can be diagnosed. Disorders related to substance use will be considered because symptoms can resemble panic attacks.