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What is Panic Disorder?

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If you or a loved one are experiencing intense bouts of fear and anxiety, you may be suffering from a panic disorder. If you are asking the question what is panic disorder, this article will discuss what panic disorder is, its symptoms, and where you can get help.

We all experience feelings of anxiety and panic. These feelings are a normal response to stressful and even dangerous situations. Whether it is interviewing for a job, having a big presentation, or trying to drive in an ice storm, we feel intense unease, fear, and stress. In most cases, these feelings of fear and panic subside once the event resolves and we can return to normal functioning. For some people, the panic and anxiety they feel do not resolve, and it can appear “out of the blue.” The seemingly never-ending sense or fear of panic can overwhelm their lives.

What is Panic Disorder?

As defined by the National Institute of Mental Health, panic disorder is a form of anxiety disorder that is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear. These feelings of fear are often accompanied by shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, and abdominal stress, among other symptoms. Those with panic disorder will experience these intense symptoms often without warning and without any known fear or stressors in their environment.

It is estimated that nearly 5% of people in the United States will experience anxiety and panic disorder in their lifetime. While panic disorder affects young people and adults equally, it is more common in females than males. Like all mental illnesses, panic disorder has no clear-cut cause. People are more likely to develop this mental illness if there is family history, constantly have high levels of stress, and have co-occurring disorders such as depression as well as substance abuse.

What Are the Symptoms of Panic Disorder?

As stated, the symptoms of an anxiety panic disorder often come without warning. These attacks can happen anytime and anywhere. The symptoms associated with a panic attack reach full intensity after a few minutes. Often, people feel worn out after their panic subsides. The following are common symptoms associated with panic disorder:

  • Sense of impending doom or danger
  • Fear of loss of control or death
  • Rapid, pounding heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Feeling of unreality or detachment

For people with panic disorder, the biggest anxiety is not knowing what the next attack will occur. For some people, they experience a panic attack on occasion while others may experience several per day.

Is Panic Disorder an Anxiety Disorder?

Panic Disorder is considered an anxiety disorder and part of the anxiety disorder family. Other disorders within this family include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Social phobias
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

If you or a loved one suffer from this mental illness, it is crucial that you seek panic disorder treatment as soon as possible. If left untreated, you may experience complications such as avoidance of social situations, development of phobias, substance abuse, and the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide itself. To seek panic disorder treatment in Santa Monica, you must be officially diagnosed by psychiatric professionals.

The basis of panic disorder treatment are therapies such as psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). 

These effective forms of therapy help you to understand panic disorder, the thoughts that lead to panic attacks, and how you can develop healthy coping skills to effectively manage symptoms. Medications such as Paxil, Prozac, and Xanax may also be used to help reduce symptoms. If drug and alcohol abuse is present along with panic disorder, treatment programs must include dual diagnosis treatment options.

How to Find Treatment for Panic Disorder

Panic disorder can be a debilitating and crippling illness. Fortunately, it is a treatable condition with professional help. Thrive Treatment is an outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment facility in Santa Monica, offering a wide range of evidence-based programs and services to help you reclaim your life. We offer different levels of care and an individualized treatment approach that fits your specific needs.
Want to start anew? Call Thrive Treatment today and begin your journey to health and wellness.

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