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Panic Disorders - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Panic disorders are anxiety disorders where a person has sudden panic attacks or fear. For more information, continue reading.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Siva Anoop Yella

Published At January 4, 2023
Reviewed AtJune 22, 2023

What Are Panic Disorders?

Panic disorders are a group of anxiety disorders where a person experiences sudden regular attacks of panic or fear that are intense and cause a physical response without any significant reason. The thoughts and concerns in the mind disrupt the routine and can cause multiple health issues. Some common examples of panic attacks are constant fear of having a heart attack, dying, etc. Panic disorders are commonly seen among Americans. This disorder can be treated if diagnosed at the earliest.

What Are the Types of Panic Disorders?

Anxiety or panic attacks: individuals with the tendency to fear and worry about the simplest things happening around them are more prone to develop an anxiety disorder and panic attacks. These people present with classic symptoms of anxiety that include sweating, heavy breathing, and tremors.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

The subjects with generalized anxiety disorder develop a habit of overthinking and panicking over any situation; some even over-analyze problems that do not occur. As a result, these individuals are always tense and are over-conscious about everything around them.

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders:

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is another type of panic and anxiety disorder. These patients are obsessed with each and everything going on around them. They are excessively particular about the things in their house and tend to think of them even when not at home, like did they turn off their gas or lights while leaving, etc. These individuals also feel excessively compelled to follow certain routines like bathing or washing hands.

  • Phobias:

Phobias refer to fear, which can be of any object, incident, activity, place, scenario, etc. In typical situations, any person can be fearful of things, but the exaggerated degree of fear is referred to as a phobia. The person tries to avoid the things that cause aversion even if they do not pose any danger. For example, a person can have a phobia of height, insects, lizards, dark, etc. These individuals tend to overreact and give an exaggerated reaction to fear.

  • Social Anxiety Disorder:

It is also referred to as social phobia; people with this disorder have public fear or anxiety when they are around a mob or crowd. This phobia is mainly due to a fear of being slandered or insulted. Because of this fear, they avoid social interactions. A classic example of social phobia is stage fear or introverted individuals.

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder:

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder or a fear that develops after a traumatic incident faced by a person that harms the life of a person; it can be the death of loved ones or abuse that has left a strong memory of the incident that lasts forever or is challenging to overcome. Thus a person is unable to lead an everyday life.

What Are the Causes of Panic Disorders?

The exact etiology of the disorder remains unknown, but studies have found its association with lifestyle, genetics, and some biochemical reactions in the body. Panic attacks also correlate with phobias, substance abuse, and other mental health conditions.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Panic attacks become a point of concern when the frequency and duration of the episodes are prolonged, affecting an individual's routine. Panic attacks present with some common emotional and physical symptoms, which are as follows:

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Lack of concentration.

  • Difficulty relaxing.

  • The constant fear of danger.

  • Getting upset easily.

  • Being tense frequently.

Physical Symptoms:

What Are the Effects of Panic Attacks?

The effects of panic attacks can be elaborated as short-term and long-term effects.

Short-term effects include headaches, discomfort, and lightheadedness. The anxiety after short-term panic attacks lasts for about 10 minutes.

As the condition progresses, the symptoms worsen with increased duration and intensity. A person experiences a lack of sleep, fear, and tension, which affects the immune system. Thus such individuals are more likely to develop infections and chronic health conditions. These people are most likely to have elevated blood pressure, which affects vital organs like the heart and kidneys, making it life-threatening and reducing the life expectancy of an individual.

What Are the Diagnostic Methods?

Treatment of any disease begins with its identification and finding if it is present in a true sense. For example, panic disorders are diagnosed by undergoing specific diagnostic tests by physicians, or a person can also take a self-assessment test. Once the person or people around notice behavioral abnormalities must be reported, and a person must be made aware of them.

Self-assessment includes:

  • Listing the symptoms and consequences followed by the panic attack.

  • Documenting the frequency of the attacks.

  • Listing the duration and incidences that made you feel depressed.

Even though a self-assessment test is taken in person, one must discuss the assessment results with the physician or an expert to rule out any alarming signs or seek help if needed.

How Are Panic Disorders Treated?

Panic disorders require prolonged treatment, which is multidisciplinary. In addition, medicine and medicinal support need counseling and other therapies that help a person overcome fear and deal with a confident life.

Panic Medications:

Medications such as anti-anxiety drugs are prescribed for overcoming symptoms to a certain extent, but these medications, when used for long durations, have proved to have safety concerns. Along with anti-anxiety medications, drugs like antidepressants are also prescribed, which help overcome panic attacks, but these drugs are effective when used for a long duration. Benzodiazepines have proved to act quickly and effectively overcome panic attacks.

All these drugs have been reported to have specific side effects, which include

  • Weight gain.

  • Stomach upset.

  • Nausea.

  • Sexual dysfunction.

  • Sleepiness.

  • Headache.

  • Drug dependence, addiction.

  • Withdrawal symptoms.

These medications are not recommended to be taken in combination with other drugs or alcohol as they can cause drug interactions that can be lethal. In addition, medicines prescribed to treat panic disorders are not recommended to be taken by females who are pregnant or older adults with chronic conditions as they can cause severe side effects.

Treat panic disorders and anxiety simultaneously for effective long-term positive results of the treatment.

An individual with panic the disorder must follow a healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly, practice meditation, have a balanced diet, and have a sound sleep. These things prevent stress and help in calming a person. In addition, people with panic disorders must avoid caffeinated drinks and try herbal remedies.

Timely help from the experts must be taken as it can help in better and faster recovery. If assistance is not asked, overcoming panic attacks becomes problematic, though not impossible, as most of the time, symptoms are overlooked.

Conclusion:

Panic disorders are a group of mental disorders that comprise anxiety and fear. Such disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, phobias, etc. These individuals usually overthink and overanalyze the situations making them worse. These people are typically fearful and face difficulties leading everyday life. Panic disorders can be treated with various medications and life modifications. Experts like psychotherapists or psychiatrists can guide you to deal with and overcome these symptoms at the earliest.

Dr. Siva Anoop Yella
Dr. Siva Anoop Yella

Psychiatry

Tags:

anxiety
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