Panic disorder

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Episodes of intense fears, characterised by symptoms like palpitations pounding, heart trembling, difficulties to breath, fear of dying, etc., develop rapidly and reach an intensity of about ten minutes.

What is panic disorder?

It is characterised by recurrent panic attacks, which affect a person’s day-to-day routine and physical health eventually.

Causes of panic disorder

It is multi-factorial; usually, the most common factor includes family history and other mental health issues like chronic stress, depression, etc.

It is also seen in people with substance abuse and physical health issues.

Symptoms of panic disorder

  • Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate.
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Shortness of breath or feeling of smothering.
  • Feelings of choking.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Nausea or abdominal distress.
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint.

Treatment of the panic disorder

In people with mild symptoms: 

Supportive therapy sessions, relaxation exercises and lifestyle modifications are advised.

If symptoms are severe to an extent where a person’s day-to-day routines are disturbed, medications are prescribed. Most commonly, antidepressants and anxiolytic medications are advised to the patients.

When to see a doctor?

If panic symptoms are very frequent and intense, affecting a person’s physical and mental health and also impacting his/her social and occupational functioning, it is advisable to consult mental health professionals.

Prevention of panic disorders

  • In acute cases of panic attacks – Re-assure the patient as the person to take a deep breath and relax.
  • If symptoms are more severe – Advised to have a review with the doctor.
  • On long-term prevention strategy, follow  
  • Healthy lifestyle 
  • Frequent relax exercises, physical activity
  • If the person is on continuous medications or frequent sessions for panic disorder, compliance to the same is very important to avoid further recurrence.

Co-morbidities related to panic disorder

  • People with around 30 to 50 percent of panic disorder suffer from Agora phobia (Agora phobia is fear of open spaces in social situations and crowds associated with avoidance of these stimuli.)
  • About 60 percent of people suffer from depression, 
  • About 50 percent of people have other anxiety disorders like OCD and social phobia.
  • About 30 percent of people suffer from substance abuse.

Conclusion

Though panic disorder may be associated with other mental health issues, as long as one is aware of their condition and is willing to accept help from professionals, it can be treated. Always know when to see a doctor and reveal the process as it is so that they can help accordingly.

FAQs

Why do I have panic attacks?

Poor/improper routines 
Stressful life situations are the most common causes of panic disorders.

What are the best treatments for panic attacks?

1. If you’re having mild symptoms,
2. You will benefit from relaxation exercises and therapy sessions (CBT and psychodynamic psychotherapies), and also the most common psychological therapies.
3. If you’re having symptoms that are severe; Ideally to consult mental health professionals.

How long do I need to take medications?

Usually 4 to 6 weeks, sometimes symptoms are more with co-morbid mental health issues, where treatment duration might vary. 

How common are panic attacks?

Panic attacks are seen in 7 to 9 percent of the population who might suffer from panic disorders.
Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to be affected.
Mostly common at the age of 15-24 years and 45-54 years.

Is panic disorder curable?

Most of the time, people with panic disorders are treatable and resolve eventually, and patients are advised to maintain a healthy lifestyle by mental health professionals.
But if under-treated/untreated, it may turn out to be chronic lifelong conditions. 


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