The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines panic attacks as abrupt waves of intense fear or discomfort.
People with the disorder live with the fear of having a panic attack. You may have a panic attack when you feel a sudden and overwhelming terror that has no obvious cause.
You may experience physical symptoms, such as a fast heart, difficulty breathing and sweating. Most people experience a panic attack once or twice in their lives.
The American Psychological Association reports that 1 out of every 75 people could experience a panic disorder.
Panic disorder is characterized by the persistent fear of having another panic attack after having experienced at least one month (or more) of persistent worry or worry about recurrent panic attacks (or their consequences).
Although the symptoms of this disorder can be overwhelming and frightening, they can be controlled and improved with treatment. Finding treatment is the most important part to reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life.
What are the symptoms of the crisis of anguish?
The symptoms of panic disorder or panic attacks often begin to appear in adolescents and young adults under 25 years of age.
If you have had four panic attacks or live in fear of another panic attack after experiencing one, you may have a panic disorder.
Panic attacks produce an intense fear that begins suddenly, often without warning. An attack typically lasts 10 to 20 minutes, but in extreme cases, the symptoms may last more than an hour.
The experience is different for everyone, and the symptoms often vary. You may have one of the following symptoms:
- Palpitations or tachycardia .
- Difficulty breathing with a feeling of suffocation.
- Dizziness ( vertigo )
- Stomach ache.
- Sweating or chills
- Changes in mental state, including a feeling of derealization (feeling of unreality).
- Depersonalization (untying of oneself).
- Numbness or tingling in your hands or feet.
- Pain or stiffness in the chest.
- Affraid to die.
- Cold hands and / or feet
- Difficulty speaking or communicating
- Sensitivity to light.
- Fear of losing different parts of the body, such as mouth, tongue, hands, etc.
The symptoms of a panic attack often occur without a clear reason. Typically, the symptoms are not proportional to the level of danger that exists in the environment.
Because these attacks can not be predicted, they can significantly affect how they work. Fear of a panic attack or remembering a panic attack can cause another attack.
The causes of panic disorder are not clearly understood. Research has shown that panic disorder can be genetically related.
Panic disorder is also associated with significant transitions that occur in life. Going to college, getting married or having your first child are all major life transitions that can create stress and lead to the development of panic disorder.
Who is at risk of developing panic disorder?
Although the causes of panic disorder are not clearly understood, information about the disease indicates that certain groups are more likely to develop the disorder. In particular, women are twice as likely as men to develop the condition, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
How is panic disorder diagnosed?
If you experience symptoms of a panic attack, you can seek emergency medical attention.
Most people who experience a panic attack for the first time believe they are having a heart attack.
While you are in the emergency department, the emergency provider will run several tests to see if your symptoms are caused by a heart attack . They can perform blood tests to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, or an electrocardiogram (ECG) to monitor heart function.
If there is no emergency basis for your symptoms, you will be referred to your primary care provider. Your primary care provider can perform a mental health exam and ask about your symptoms.
All other medical disorders will be ruled out before your primary care provider makes a diagnosis of panic disorder.
How is panic disorder treated?
The treatment for panic disorder focuses on reducing or eliminating your symptoms. This is achieved through therapy with a qualified professional and, in some cases, medications.
Therapy generally involves cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy teaches you to change your thoughts and actions so that you can understand your attacks and manage your fear.
Medications used to treat panic disorder may include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressants.
SSRIs prescribed for panic disorder may include:
Other medications that are sometimes used to treat panic disorder include serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), another class of anti-seizure medications, benzodiazepine anticonvulsants (commonly used as tranquilizers).
Including diazepam or clonazepam monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), another type of antidepressant that is used infrequently due to rare but serious side effects.
In addition to these treatments, there are a number of steps you can take at home to reduce your symptoms:
- Exercise regularly
- Sleep enough avoiding the use of stimulants such as caffeine.
What is the long-term perspective?
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 relief of symptoms through treatment.
It may not be possible to prevent panic disorder. However, you can work to reduce your symptoms by avoiding alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine and illicit drugs.
It is also helpful to note if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety after an anguishing life event. If you are bothered by something you experienced or were exposed to, discuss the situation with your primary care provider.